Over the weekend I spilled half a gallon of paint on my tiled floor. I whisper-yelled a word I tell my kids is a bad word. More than once. I kept painting a few strokes while my brain processed the disaster before me, and then I began. Heavy, heavy sigh. I began tackling this job that was not on my list for the day. And when I began wiping this mess that seemed altogether too big to even start cleaning I felt this sudden, violent urge to cry. It was gone as quickly as it had come. I kept on cleaning, and after 2 hours, it was as if it had never happened. But, I know it happened. I know what a massive inconvenience it was. I know the spots in the grout that are lighter than they should be. When I look at my ladder that is now white and silver opposed to all silver, I will remember the day it got it’s very own unexpected makeover. I know the destruction half a gallon of paint made and how it made me want to cry.
I thought about this. I thought about all the traumatic things I have been through, and I know so well this feeling of wanting to break apart and cry at the mess in front of you but not being able to. I know how very much life can be like that stupid gallon of paint. It can fall over and break apart on us when we least expect it. It can hit us out of nowhere. One little thing can leave messes that we will never forget. Messes that we will be cleaning up until we see Jesus. And I guess that is the key to it all. He is the key to it all. This man named Jesus who would freely- did freely- come and clean up the paint. Scrub away the residue. Leave no trace of the wreckage that once was.
And do you want to know the worst part about the paint spill? It ruined my beloved Birkenstocks that I wear 24/7 in my home because I am past the age of bare feet, and when I do not have them on my feet and back ache. I know. I can’t even deal with this old lady stuff. But, I had to throw those beloved ugly shoes in the trash, and that was the part that just about did me in. You see, we lose things in the mess. Sometimes really valuable things, sometimes very well worn, beloved things. Comfortable things. But, I have to believe that when I begrudgingly fork out the insane amount of money for a pair of house clogs they will be better than the last, they will be worn for years, and it was time for an upgrade anyways. This is the story I will tell myself. But God? He doesn’t begrudgingly replace what we have lost with the most sensible deal He can find on the Birkenstock’s website. He brings us new breath, new life, new perspective, new beauty, new, new, new. And sure, we still see the painted tile that was scrubbed for hours and will always look a little different than the other pieces, but you know what? I kind of like it. I kind of like the light mixed with the dark. Unplanned messes can still be beautiful works of art.
Now. The hardest part about this comparison to spilling paint to the thing that is my life. Remember the violent urge to cry? That feeling, while a bit few and far between, is not an unfamiliar one. And I think more than anything, this one got me like a punch in the gut. As I scrubbed (and scrubbed and scrubbed) in the shower all the pieces of paint off of me, it really hit me that I have gotten so good at swallowing down that feeling. I have gotten so incredibly good at staring at a giant problem and walking right into it because, well, what other choice is there? Tears are no longer part of my psyche. Not really. I am maybe an internal crier (I’m just gonna go ahead and take credit for that term; if it’s a real thing, do not crush my dream), but I’m not even sure if I do that. I just do. Take care. Move forward. Internally handle. Hear me. All you counselors are like “whoa, she needs to come sit in my office.” Yep. I probably do. Because one day, maybe tears will come, and they won’t stop for 2 weeks. (If that 2 week cry session could happen in the Rockies with coffee, a journal, and hiking breaks, I’m down for it.) Maybe it will be gradual. Maybe I will spill another gallon of paint and that will be the hardest thing in my life, and I’ll find myself actually spilling my own tears in the mess. But today, I move forward, and that is OK. Today, I ask God to handle some of the burdens, heal some of the trauma, give me wisdom and grace and tenderness. Soften the edges that have been hardened by hurt.
Because the truth is that I tell my kiddos it is 100% OK to cry, and that, in fact, the act of releasing the tears helps them heal. Isn’t it funny how we teach our kids the very thing we struggle with? As a mom, I don’t want them forgetting what warm tears feel like on cool cheeks. I want them to taste the salt on their tongue and feel the relief that comes the morning after. And I guess I know I have to get there, too. Not to have a meltdown at every corner, but to allow myself the space to go there when it’s needed.
The dang paint. It really made me have an internal counseling session, and prompted some prayers. The moral of the story is do not do house projects.
I’m kidding. The moral of the story is that life is messy and unplanned like a spilled gallon of paint, but God is amazingly better than a magic marker at cleaning the mess. (Let it be known that there was much more involved in cleaning this mess than a magic marker, but you get the point.) The moral of the story is that if you have carried heavy burdens that have molded you and possibly hardened you, God still uses this. He knows what has wounded you the deepest, and He isn’t put off by it. The wonderful news is that He continues molding you into something so much more beautiful and stronger than when He first began. He doesn’t get started and quit. If you allow Him, He will always finish what He starts. No pain is wasted, and no tears, whether they actually fall or not (I’m looking at you fellow internal criers) are for naught.
Lastly, and it must be said, the next time I face a giant mess may I not whisper-yell a cuss word but call on the God who can deal with the mess.
Who knew spilled paint would bring so much life contemplation? If you stuck with me, and you know of a good deal on Birks, I will love you forever.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philipians 1:6
“You keep track of all of my sorrows. You have collected all of my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8