There’s a chip in the paint in a corner of my kitchen. It’s one of many on these walls, but this splotch of plaster peeking through always catches my eye as I round the corner to run out the door. I make a mental note to fix it but never quite do. And so, it remains. It reminds.
Over the days and weeks and months we’ve lived in this house, that paint chip has developed a way of whispering to me.
“You still haven’t done it,” it snickers as I catch a glimpse of it on my way upstairs to meet a deadline.
“You probably never will,” it mocks as I try to clean my way out from under a heap of dirty dishes in the sink.
There is something liturgical about a walk through our homes. We do it dozens of times a day, passing by chipped-paint touchstones and the stories they tell us about ourselves. On far too many days, I allow my walls, laundry piles, and specks of dirt to dredge up lies from deep inside of me, whispering them to me again and again.
“There’s too much to do.”
“The time you’ve been given is not enough.”
“YOU are not enough.”
But there is a truer story they also tell if I have ears to hear it.
SEEING WHAT LASTS
It was a standard Saturday morning when I realized I no longer wanted to listen to the whispers of these walls, and I began to change the narrative. My husband and children were enjoying a late breakfast, and I was doing my best to ruin it. I didn’t see it that way at the time, of course. All I could see was the kitchen carnage the meal was leaving for me to clean up. And, after listening to the chipped paint and the laundry piles all week, the whispers of my domestic shortcomings were reaching a crescendo.
As I wiped crumbs from under plates still full of food, my heart, like Martha’s, railed at my family and at my Lord, “Do you not care that [they] have left me to serve alone? Tell [them] then to help me!” (Luke 10:40).
And, like Martha, I heard the Lord’s soft reply, “one thing is necessary.” That week, I’d been meditating on Jesus’ encouragement in Matthew 11:25-30 to come to Him in my weariness and find rest. To exchange yokes with the One who has already done for me the only work that truly needs to be done that day—a work I could not do— to make me, a sinner, right with a holy God. The work of salvation.
This finished work does not render the work I do—keeping a home, feeding children, holding down a job, and paying taxes—unnecessary. Rather, it imbues it with a holy significance. The work that is left is that of sanctification—one that I participate in with the help of the Holy Spirit. And He delights in using things like paint chips. These things that are temporary and wasting away—even our own bodies—point us to a future hope that is unfading.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Is there anything more “light” and “momentary,” more revealing of the “wasting away” of this outer self, than chipped paint? If I let the chipped paint remind me only of the work that is not yet done, I am missing the best part of the story. For these temporal signs of our passing away are gracious reminders of what is, by comparison, eternal. When I see chipped paint, I can zero in on it as a sign of my weakness or I can let its momentary nature remind me of what will outlast these walls and this world: “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
REHEARSING THE TRUTH
Just like the bigger, deeper, harder pain of this world causes us to lift our eyes to the One who says one day it will be no more (Revelation 22:3), the tiny chips on these walls and finger smudges on these countertops can routinely remind me of the coming glory.
Instead of walking through my house adding to my to-do list and reciting my failures, I can use these hallmarks to rehearse the truth of the gospel.
I can give thanks for the full life that’s lived in this house and all the marks it leaves behind. I can bear the image of my God as I restore order where there was chaos. I can do the good work of painting or cleaning as unto the Lord—or I can save it for another day. Whether I do the work or walk by it, I can rest in the truly urgent and finished work that’s been done for me. I can let it remind me to remember.
Yes, the paint chip is still there, but it no longer wags a finger at me. Instead, it whispers of a Savior who cares what I think when I walk by it. He cares about the humdrum, do-it-again-ness of domestic life. He seeks to redeem every scrap of it and every scrap of me.
And He can make even paint chips into a canvas for His good work.
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