On my summer to-do list was one entry that seemed direct and simple: paint the door that leads into the house from the garage.
During the eight years that we've lived in our house, we've dinged
and scratched and dirtied that door like it was our job. Little (and
big) hands have smudged it, feet have kicked it when rushing in or out,
book bags and grocery bags have scraped against it, and at least one
unidentified liquid substance has splattered its lower regions, Jackson
Last week, I washed and dried the door with old rags and painted both sides. Check that chore off the list.
But then I noticed that the trim around the door was as battered and marked as the door itself had been. I poured more paint into my tray, dipped my one-and-a-half inch angled brush, and got to work. When I finished the trim around the door, I studied the trim in the hallway. A Pandora's Box of dings and scuffs glared at me.
In fact, each time I finished touching-up one imperfection, I spotted more problems -- chips on the door where the girls once had taped a poster, dark skid marks where I collided the vacuum against a section of trim in the hallway.
Seemingly endless imperfections! It was all I could see -- not carpeting or furniture, not decor or furnishings, not inviting colors or even the people that I love who live in the house alongside me.
No, I just saw the imperfections.
I painted until the tray was empty, hammered the paint can closed with a rubber mallet, and carefully washed my brush, aware that I must have made some progress, but mostly disappointed with all the crud that I was convinced still was out there, those blemishes and dings I certainly had missed, that dirt that had escaped my notice, and especially that dirt that hadn't escaped my notice but I didn't have the time or energy to deal with.
You can get myopic when you're only focused on problems. At least I can. I see the one yard that needs to be mowed or the hair that won't fall into place. We focus on the bad grade on the report card, or the negative review, or the cellulite.
We see what's imperfect, and we want it to be made right, to be corrected. Because, we think, won't that fix everything? Won't that slake my discontent?
Later that night while scrubbing paint from underneath my fingernails at the sink, I accepted that my desire for perfection is relatively normal. It's a natural longing to bring order to disorder, to replace chaos with peace and unsightliness with beauty.
I also felt God remind me that my quest for perfection, if it's without Him, will always, always fall short and turn up empty.
That longing for everything to be right -- for the sundry details of life to perpetually be orderly, settled, and secure -- is beyond grasp. We make bad choices, or others make bad choices on our behalf. Curve balls are thrown. Life knocks us hard sometimes.
And yet, as I scratched at the white specks of paint on my hands, I took comfort that God guides my steps and makes straight my path. He is perfection. Time and again over the years, I've experienced that he is hope when there's not much to hope for, and peace when my heart gives way with fear, and comfort when I'm broken, and forgiveness when I rebel and go my own way.
His perfection is enough, even if everything else -- myself included -- is a mess. I don't need to get bogged down in the dings and scuffs and hurts that life issues. I don't need to crumble under daily wear and tear, battered and marked, like an overused door.
Jesus covers messes. He makes them white and new and whole.
Minutes after I dried off my hands, no longer paint-splattered, I purposed yet again to look toward God. There's plenty of imperfections out there that rally for my attention -- hardships and flaws and failures that clamor to distract or aggravate or distress me. I won't have it.
I choose to trust the One who is perfect.