"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Colorful Lesson in (Self) Home Improvement

By Micky Wolf

“Nope, this doesn’t look good…” It didn’t matter I was the only one in the room.

“What is the problem?” I wondered, staring at the unwanted lines and overlap marks on the dry, freshly painted wall. Discouraged, I sat back on the carpet amidst the chaos of drop cloths, painting equipment, shoved together furniture, and stacks of books.

While not a do-it-yourself expert by any means, my beloved and I have had plenty of experience over the years with a variety of projects. Our first home, albeit sturdy and well-constructed, was a true fixer-upper. Part of its charm was the original plaster walls and slightly uneven corners, which meant using brushes to refinish surfaces.

This home, our second and likely our last, is much newer. In pristine condition when we bought it a number of years ago from the original owner, the walls are smooth and straight, nary a bump or uneven surface to be had.

“Okay, so only my second attempt with a roller,” I muttered.

Exhausted from almost three full days of being up and down on a ladder and crawling along baseboards, I plopped into my chair in front of the computer. Within minutes I was staring at more how-to videos than there are bristles in a brush. And I also discovered what I was doing wrong and what needed to happen to resolve the issue.

Tools and gifts…

Not surprisingly, I have found some similarities between home improvement projects and self-improvement.

First all, the paint wasn’t ending up on the wall in a way that brought out the best features of the wall or the room because I didn’t understand the best way to use the tools.

Same holds true for you and me. God never intended for you and me to try and fix or improve ourselves, all by ourselves. He has given each of us a variety of equipment—intellect, wisdom, heart, mentors, friends, emotions, the Holy Spirit—to help us be the best person we can be. It is important to know which tool is best suited for the task at hand and how it might be wielded.

When we’re not getting the results we hope for—with the paint on the wall or ourselves—it probably means there is something in our approach that needs changed or adjusted.

Seek God. Seek understanding. When we choose to have a teachable spirit, God does not fail to provide all that we need. The Bible is truly the best do-it-yourself-with-Divine-instruction manual we could ever have available.

Practice and experience…

After soaking up some instruction and getting a good nights’ rest, I was ‘back at the wall’ the next morning. With new techniques and strategies in hand, the lines and patterns were quickly disappearing. At the same time, I have lived long enough to know knowledge, in and of its self, is not to be confused with ‘knowing how’. Time and hands-on practice would be necessary for me to improve the final results.

And so it goes for you and me. We learn a Scripture, pray more fervently, take time to ponder—and we still make choices that are unloving or inconsiderate of others. While it is true there are no practice runs for this life we have been given, it is also true that the more time we spend here, the greater the opportunity to be and become more compassionate and caring of our fellow sojourners. We may need a few ‘re-dos’—otherwise known as apologies and asking for forgiveness—but the bottom line is we can decrease those occasions when we make a mess and hurt others (or self) by applying what we learn to ourselves first.

Energy and perseverance…

I put my all into those three days, only to discover it was going to take another two days (if everything went well) to complete the job. Aargh! But, I have other things to do, God! Right.

As human beings, we can flit from one thing to the next without ever fully appreciating this moment. This one moment. This one breath. The lessons God allows for us will usually involve time and attention. If we hope for good fruit to manifest, we must be patient.
God is no hurry as He goes about His business of transforming us into more Christ-like people. He is much more interested in quality than quantity, substance than superficiality. His desire is to mold and shape us, to draw out of each of us the shine and sparkle that is unique to who He has created us to be and the mission He has planned for us.

Not giving up on ourselves can be the biggest challenge we face every morning, or as we lay our head on the pillow at night. Persevering with God—opening ourselves to receiving His unlimited grace—is the way we are energized and fortified to stay the course.

Excellence, not perfection…

I have no illusions the repainted walls are perfect, without a single a line or lap mark visible anywhere on the surface. I do know, however, that by taking time to incorporate what I learned, there is a vast improvement in the finished project.

The same applies to you and me as we allow God to work in and through us. It’s not about trying to be perfect and never making a mistake or a mess. He is much more interested in whether you and I make a sincere commitment to take responsibility for our choices and actions. When that happens, God shows up every time and is more than generous with His blessings, His love, and His provision.

Do I need to change the way I use the gifts God has given me?

Do I have a teachable spirit, regardless of my chronological age?

How do I feel about making the commitment for the long haul?


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