I’m in the middle of a shitty job—scraping paint off a century-old house. Twenty-two hours and probably that many more before it’s done. I once thought my worst job was 45 years ago when I pulled a few thousand chickens from their wire cages so the concrete floor beneath could be scrubbed. Even though the smell isn’t as bad, scraping a house (especially one with eaves) is worse.
The folks at the city code department were “kind” when they informed me they really wanted the house painted sooner rather than later. They gave me 90 days. As a friendly reminder, they wrote it on official stationery and stuck it on my front door. It’s nice to be special!
Though I didn’t plan on it, house scraping has become my spiritual discipline this Lenten season. Some people are inclined to give up certain things during these weeks preceding Easter: alcohol, chocolate, smoking, TV, talk radio, even Facebook. Others use this time of Lent to incorporate new activities into their routines: a disciplined Bible study or just reading the Bible at all, deeper prayer or just praying at all, eating a salad every day or just having a conversation with the spinach, exercising, or supporting new causes.
For me this year, Lent is about scraping paint off wooden boards. As I’ve already said, it’s a crappy job with more than its share of physical pain, bruised knuckles, fatigue, boredom, and whining. So much whining! Eventually, though, the scraping will lead to transformation when the old gives way to the new and the house undergoes a rebirth. Like some parts of our lives we’d just as soon not disturb, this old house must be born again.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about buried seeds springing from the earth, about dying and rising, about holding our lives loosely in order to receive that which all our striving cannot make good on. Jesus was not afraid to scrape away our culturally induced notions of the good life.
When a rich man (Luke 18) asked Jesus for advice on living forever, Jesus pointed him to the commandments and said, “Keep them.” When back came the answer, “I keep them all,” Jesus reached into his tool belt, pulled out his trusty scraper and said, “There’s just a few layers of old paint I need to remove from your life. Yes, I see it. Sell all you have and give the money to the poor. Then you’ll be ready to follow me.” Would that we all had eyes and ears to recognize where scraping is needed.
Soon enough, the house scraping will be over. I’m going to miss wearing these really cool goggles!
[For previous installments of A House Story go to www.danielplasman.com/blog/ and pull down the CATEGORIES menu and select A House Story]