Today we awoke to yet another glistening, snow-dusted morning. A scheduled trip to Boston has been cancelled due to the storm, giving me the gift of a free day stretching out in front of me. With the luxurious gift of time to write, I have decided to revisit some reflections on the lessons learned during the restoration work on our old house.
On the morning of our closing, David thoughtfully presented me with the perfect gift to commemorate the occasion. Tearing off the pretty wrapping paper, I yelped with excitement when I saw the black and yellow box with the name “Wagner” in the corner. Here is a man who knows my heart. A heat gun is so full of promise, don’t ya’ know? And this was my third heat gun, having burned through two on our previous renovation projects. I once again had a heat gun and I wasn’t afraid to use it.
At some point over the years, previous owners had decided that it was a good idea to paint all the trim on the house black. Not just a little black, but a lot of black. Even the one bit of adornment on this otherwise simple house…the classically beautiful Doric columns supporting the arched entry-way—had innumerable coats of flat black paint weighing them down. Ever since we had first looked at the house, I had been itching to set them free. Now armed, I was ready to get started.
The next morning, I got up early and headed over to commence the liberation. After setting up the ladder and getting the extension cords in place, I plugged in my heat gun and climbed eagerly up to the top rung. As I turned the switch to “high”, the old familiar whizzing sound took me to a happy place. I smiled to myself remembering all the bygone summer days in which this sound had mingled with the sound of my happy children playing in the sprinkler while “mommy worked on the porch.” They love to reminisce with one another about how several times per day they would ask me for various treats while I was working. They knew that when I was engrossed in work they could get my distracted reply of “I suppose” which, of course, meant, “Yes, anything, please, so long as you behave and let me get this done before I have to go make dinner.” But, I digress…
…I aimed the nozzle at the black paint and watched with satisfaction as the first spot bubbled up and began to peel away. A kaleidoscope of other colors showed up beneath the black: green, rust, even pink. Pink Doric columns? Black suddenly didn’t seem like such an unreasonable choice. The very bottom coat was, as I had suspected, a once bright, classic white. Beneath that first layer, the scraper revealed the most beautiful, clear, tightly- grained, old-growth wood. It was ninety years old, but looked better than the brand new material one could buy at the local lumber yard.
What I love most about doing work like this is that it affords the mind space to think, pray, and reflect on all kinds of things. As I worked on this project over the next few weeks, a few thoughts kept coming back day after day. The first is how we human beings are so inclined to simply cover up what is ugly or damaged or failing. It is so much easier to just slap something over to mask what it marred. And that is true, for a while. Over time, however, the cracks and chips begin to show through the latest white-washing (or green, pink, or black-washing). There is simply no way to cover a failing substructure.
The second thought is how much effort it takes to remove the cover-ups. No amount of scraping in the world could have removed the layers of paint on those columns. It was going to take hours and hours of labor-intensive work, sweat, and patience…and the power of a big heat gun…to get down to the root of the problem. In some places the deteriorated surface came off with relative ease; in others, the unyielding blackness burned into a sticky tar that refused to be budged even by the heat gun. In those places, the only answer was to strenuously sand and sand and sand until the stubborn black was ground away and the fresh, smooth wood surface was revealed.
There are no words to describe the gratification that came when, at last, it was time to apply a fresh, clean covering over the polished wood. The crisp, white primer slipped on like a silk robe…smooth, beautiful, blemish-free. No longer hiding under layers of languid and decaying camouflage, the columns appear taller, more stable and prepared to weather the storms that are to come.
Thankfully, we have a Friend who was not afraid of the blood, sweat, and tears of the hard work it would take to unmask the beauty of what we were created to be. Thankfully, we have a Friend who has promised to robe us in unblemished white, fitting us for the day when we stand tall before His face, and the storms simply pass us by.
Is me restituit et ei multas gratias humillime ago.