August 28, 2012

The Parable of the Paintbrush

God recently blessed our church with several wonderful new doors. The old ones were getting rickety and rusty. But the new ones are quiet, smooth, and much nicer looking, too! Praise the Lord for these small but good gifts to our church. And praise the Lord that one of our deacons, Gary, has done such a wonderful job of getting them painted for us! They look great! Well, mostly great …

You see, one day last week I was doing some projects around my house, and when I got finished, I was still in the mood to do a little tinkering. One of the new church doors had a very small area on which the paint seemed a little thin after drying … so I thought: ‘I’ll just get out that can of Gary’s Rustoleum oil-based paint, put a few quick dabs on that little spot, and be done.’ Note well the words ‘oil-based.’ I did not know, but was soon to discover, that you cannot just use any old brush to apply oil-based paint!

So I opened the can of paint, found an unused paintbrush in the utility room, and proceeded to slather on a few inches, square, of touch-up. It looked horrible! The rest of the door was smooth as glass, but this portion looked like a cat had run its claws through the paint! Wrong brush, remember? But I didn’t yet know that was the problem.

Now, at this point, I should have called Gary and said: ‘I think I messed up the paint job; can you tell me how to fix it?’ But instead I thought: ‘O, I know how to smooth this out. I’ll use a roller on this area, blend it in and spread it out a little, and all will be well.’ Bad mistake. The paint job got much worse … and the problem area much bigger!

Then it occurred to me: ‘I wonder if you have to have a special brush or roller for oil-based paint?’ Google said yes! Now I knew the problem. And I should have called Gary and said: ‘Uh, I really messed up the door. Used the wrong brush, and a roller to boot. Can you come and fix it?’ But instead I went to Home Depot, bought the correct brush, and a little sanding pad, and decided that if I could smooth out the area, and then re-paint it with the right brush, all would be well. While I was in the store, I even thought: ‘You know, instead of buying all this stuff, I should just call Gary and ask him for help.’ But I didn’t. So, the next morning I got up, went out, sanded the rough patch to what looked like smooth, and proceeded to paint away. But I didn’t evidently get it as smooth as I thought, nor could I keep my brush strokes from looking streaky, even with a $12 paint brush!

So … after all my painting, rolling, spending, sanding, and repainting, the small area that I began with (maybe half the size of my hand) was now about 6 inches wide by two feet tall! What could I do? I thought about trying to wait another day, sanding and repainting again the next morning. The thought of calling Gary and asking for help was too embarrassing. But how much worse might I make it?

Well, I finally decided to cry ‘uncle.’ So I emailed Gary, told him what happened, and asked him if he could fix what I had ruined. I'm sure it won't be long until he has it looking right again. Thank God for good deacons! But I might have made much less of a mess (and cost myself much less money, and Gary much less time) if I’d have simply called him in the first place! And therein lies the parable of the paintbrush.

So often we do the Christian life like I did the touch-up work on the door. We get in over our heads, and we know it. But it’s too embarrassing to call someone who knows better (God mainly, or perhaps sometimes another Christian) and admit we’ve made a hash of things. So we try a different solution, and then a different one after that. We throw money at the problem. And so on. We should have just stopped and put the whole thing in God’s hands from the beginning. But we went it alone and made a small problem into a medium-sized one, or a medium-sized problem into a giant mess – all because we thought we could handle it without anyone else having to know how inept we were the first time. But if we were inept the first time, we’ll probably be inept at covering up our previous ineptness! That’s my experience, anyway!

So I should have called Gary last Thursday. And I should have called God in a lot of other similar situations. Make sure you don't make the same mistake!

P.S. – Yes, I know that another moral of this story is that pastors who don’t have a handy bone in their bodies shouldn’t be messing with such projects in the first place! But feel free to remind me and make fun of me anyway!

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