From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
It’s summer – the season for tackling long-procrastinated-on home improvement projects is in full swing here at the “Lizard Lounge.” (Follow the link to find out where that name came from… No really, I’ll wait…) And when I’m outside having a little DIY moment – painting or digging in the yard – I have a lot of time to talk to or (even better) listen to the Lord. Invariably, I end up with an idea for a blog post.
So below is the first post in what I’m calling “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay.” Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
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The color was…
I stepped back and took a good long look at the color of the fresh coat of paint I had just rolled on the most visible exterior wall of my house…
- The color I had ruminated over for weeks…
- The color I had gotten a little test sample for and used to paint yet another 2’ x 3’ patch on the side of the house for all the world to see as they drove by wondering what manner of person lived in the color-happy, Mondrian-inspired house…
- The color I had then spent two weeks squinting at while trying to block out the old color (and the other 2’ x 3’ sample patches) surrounding it so I could envision the house adorned in all its fresh-coat-of-paint glory…
That color – the one that was…
…wrong – totally wrong.
It was supposed to be “Aged Stucco,” an earthy gray hue with a hint of so-subtle-as-to-be-almost-non-existent mossy green; instead, a more apt name would have been “Old Jockey Shorts,” more of a washed out, weak tan with about as much appeal as an old pair of men’s underwear that had seen (much) better days.
I stood there, dripping roller in hand, staring at the half-painted wall. I had done my due diligence in choosing the perfect paint color:
- I had researched “flat” vs. “semi-gloss.”
- I had bought the proper roller with the right nap for my rough walls and purchased a little trim brush so as to do it up right.
- I had dutifully gotten up at the crack of dawn so I could start painting before it got too hot.
And what was my reward?
Old Jockey Shorts.
How had this happened? I watched them mix the paint at the home store, then compared the little dollop they smeared on the lid of the paint can and dried with a blow dryer to the paint swatch I had stuck in my back pocket (the swatch that had reigned victorious from the embarrassingly large number of swatches currently taking up my entire dining room table). Apparently, some bit of nefarious paint color alchemy had taken place in the paint can overnight that had turned Aged Stucco into Old Jockey Shorts.
All that money, all that time, all that effort – wasted. I was fed-up with the whole stupid paint-tastrophe. I have many God-given abilities but apparently choosing a paint color is not one of them. Gradually, my shoulders began to droop – not just from being worn slap out from riding that paint roller up wall and down, but in defeat. The paint-picking process had pummeled me to a pulp.
I finally decided that, yucky color or not, there was nothing left to do but finish painting that side of the house before A&E drove by and decided to feature me in their new reality series, “Painters” – a show about homeowners who can’t settle on a paint color and end up with houses that look like they should be featured in a Dr. Seuss book. (“I do not like it on the wall; I do not like that paint at all.”)
So I rolled on, trying to figure out how I was going to sort it all out, dreading having to start all over again with the paint swatches.
Since the cooler morning temperatures were gradually giving way to the mid-morning heat, by the time I finished with the rest of the wall the first part had begun to dry. And then it happened – slowly, and in bits and pieces, the color I had fussed over began to emerge. As I watched, Old Jockey Shorts gave way to Aged Stucco; earthy gray with a so-subtle-as-to-be-almost-non-existent hint of mossy green began to overrule men’s underwear. I stood there, triumphantly observing the steady east-to-west spread of the color I chose.
And that color was…
It was good all along – it just had to finish maturing. It was also worth the wait, like most things that need a while to develop to their fullest potential – things like…
- Kids who finally grow out of rolling their eyes every time you open your mouth or wanting the Tasmanian Devil tattooed where the sun don’t shine.
- Dogs that finally stop chewing up your credit cards and using the sofa leg for target practice.
- Ripe watermelon.
Maturity – I totally get it, especially when it comes to spiritual maturity. I love what Paul told the congregation of the church at Philippi:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NIV
When I say I love that verse, I mean I really love it. It’s the verse I always give as my favorite verse. I wish I could find a t-shirt with it on it (printed upside down so I could look down and read it any time I want). If I could, I would marry that verse and have children.
In brief, that verse speaks to me.
It gives me hope that one day I will be done with the stupid, petty struggles that seem to continually plague me.
Plague me. Con.Tin.U.Ally.
However, sometimes that day seems to be a long time coming. And, as evidenced by the whole Old Jockey Shorts to Aged Stucco “stupid paint-tastrophe” morning, it should be obvious that I’m not a patient person. My impatience doesn’t just bubble to the surface while waiting for paint to dry, either:
- I’m impatient with people in the checkout line at the grocery store who wait until all of their items have been scanned and the total rung-up and announced by the cashier before rummaging around for their checkbook and a pen. (Debit cards are not the “Mark of the Beast,” people.) Then they act surprised when asked for an ID – and more rummaging ensues. (Maybe they’re holding out beyond hope that one day they’ll be the millionth customer and will get that cart of groceries for free.)
- I’m impatient with people who leisurely amble along in the “fast” lane – driving well below the speed limit – while other drivers (not me, of course) blow around them in a huff. They never notice that, though, because they’re texting.
- I’m impatient with people who just have to be heard. This can happen during all types of settings, from hogging the floor during a work meeting to inserting their divinely appointed opinion during a Bible study. Sometimes I want everyone to be like me – quiet, listening intently to the presenter, never speaking out unless I have something REALLY timely and pertinent and important to say (which is most always) that will pour forth from my lips like nuggets of gold (at the very least, silver) and add a parting-of-the-clouds moment to every assemblage lucky enough to have my astute insight and that will brand me as wise or hilarious – or both.
But worse than all of those (and a bunch that I chose to just keep to myself), I’m sometimes impatient with God.
(Dude, that sounds harsh.)
Sometimes I have trouble waiting for my own paint to dry.
(And that sounds weird.)
Almost five years ago, I finally surrendered my life to Jesus. I remember those first few exhilarating – almost intoxicating, actually – days and weeks. (WooHoo!! Drunk on Jesus!) After I had cleaned up my language and my cabinets and my computer and my video library of my favorite trappings of sin without looking back even once, I remember thinking, This not-sinning thing? It’s a piece o’ cake. As long as I don’t say it or drink it or look at it, I’m golden. Simple.
Stopping doing all those things was great and was definitely God’s will for me, but that was the easy part. The hard part is being loving and kind when the check writer/driver/needy attention getter is stomping on the last shred of my holy patience. Equally as hard is resisting the temptation to keep a little of the glory that totally belongs to God for myself. And then there’s the challenge with being still and knowing that God is God instead of deciding that I know what’s best for me. (‘Cause, of course, I have all the wisdom of the ages, unlike the omniscient, all-knowing creator of the universe.)
Here I am wanting so bad to be Aged Stucco, but instead I just feel like Old Jockey Shorts: five years in and I’m still struggling with some of those same things I was struggling with soon after the “This not-sinning thing is a piece o’ cake” pronouncement.
Maybe you have your own struggles that you can’t seem to grow out of. (Please tell me you have more noble struggles than check-out-line rage, though.) Maybe you thought you would ride the wave of that intoxicating, new-Christian rush all the way to the pearly gates. Maybe you’re wondering if you’ll ever be Aged Stucco (or some other whimsically-named paint color).
Just know that our struggles don’t mean the “color” – a/k/a God’s saving grace – wasn’t good; the miracle of salvation in every true believer is always good; Jesus perfected that at Calvary – a “good work,” as Paul called it. But salvation is merely the starting gun (on your mark, get set, go be holy!); and often, the rest of the Christian life is less like a 50-yard dash and more like a marathon.
When we enter that race, the Lord doesn’t tell us how long it’s going to be. But Hebrews 12:1-2 pretty much tells us to run it with all we’ve got and to K.Y.E.O.J. (Keep Your Eyes On Jesus) as my friend Judy likes to sign her email messages to me. Three things that verse tells us to do:
- Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
- Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
- Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
So as bad as I want to be Aged Stucco right now, becoming who God ultimately wants me to be doesn’t depend on my timing – it actually depends on His. In fact, overcoming all those things that plague me (Con.Tin.U.Ally) is totally enabled by His work in me through the Holy Spirit, as is any desire on my part to grow in my relationship with Him. Which, if you think about it, is really amazing – He pursued me in the first place and, just like Paul told the Philippians…
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
…He will continue to do so until He’s finished.
In other words, he’ll dog me ‘til I’m dry.
So take it from Old Jockey Shorts here – one of these days I will finally be Aged Stucco. If you’re a true follower of Jesus, you will be, too (or, again, some other whimsically-named paint color). And even if it doesn’t happen until that split second before we pass from this life to the next, it will have been worth the wait.
And it will be…