“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, poet and leader of the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century
The past few weeks I have been working on the restoration of the living room in our 96 year old house. From finding someone to cover the popcorn ceiling, to repairing cracks, to restoring the old wood, it has been a long, painstaking process. This past weekend I was in the final stages – the priming and painting of the ceiling and walls. For those of you who have done this before, you know that the process of prep can often take longer than the actual painting itself. First you cover the floor, then you tape off the trim, and then you cover windows and doors to protect against splatter. By the time you finally get done with this and the first coat of primer, you are tuckered out.
But once you are done with the primer, it’s time to stand back and evaluate the new blank slate that you have created. I like this part. Everything is pure, white and ready for the renewal of color that you are about to apply. Ever find that life is kind of like that? We let our lives get beaten and bruised, allowing the decay to take hold of the beauty that once was, until it seems to have vanished completely under the dust and cobwebs of time. Sometimes it is just easier to let it continue, as the effort to change, stop or renew ourselves seems so tedious, hard and costly. It takes far less effort to just give up and surrender away the loveliness.
Unless of course, you are encouraged to remember what once was and can be again; that you are worth restoring. It takes an act of faith to be sure, but even a little faith can accomplish great things. Renewal cannot be done without it, because it is through faith that we have the vision we need to see us through to who and what we are meant to be. Renewal is never an impossible task. Tedious, time consuming, costly – yes. But never impossible.
I have also come to understand that renewal does not mean a return to once was, but a creation of a new kind of beauty that does not lose sight of what has gone before. We are an accumulation of all the experiences of our past – both the good and the bad have molded us in some way. We cannot ignore our past, but we can overcome it, and use the old ugly as part of our new beautiful. This is why I love old houses – the dents, gouges, ripples, creaks, crookedness and general imperfections are what add to their character and beauty. They have experienced the life of generations, and I think that they are the more beautiful for it. You see, when I set about the restoration of an old house, I do not return it to what it once was, all brand new without any scars. When I set about to renew it, I embrace rather than hide the evidence of a life lived. I find that it is the very scars that make the renewal so lovely, and why the effort is so worth it.
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51; 7, 10, The Bible (NIV)