I look up from intense concentration to see Katy's dad walk through the door, his eyes climbing the walls and ceiling, crawling over every inch of freshly painted wood paneling. I cringe as I wait for him to point out the imperfections in my work, but soon he just shakes his head, cracks a wry smile and says the same thing he says every time: "Man, it just looks so different in here."
It has become quite a joke for us as the job has worn on. I'm about 80 percent finished, and each time another piece of the puzzle is crossed off the list, I ask him how it looks. We both break into laughter because we know what he's going to say. He'll wax nostalgic about how he can't even remember what his office building used to look like, and we'll always wind up talking about how different this place looks.
Only three front offices and the men's bathroom remain untouched by my brush and roller. Inside those rooms is a reminder of how far we've come since I started this job a few months ago. Most of the walls are a hodge-podge of mismatched wood paneling, and some even mix it up with a combination of paneling and concrete block. But each time, after slathering on the primer, I begin to cover over the sins of past decorators with a glorious coat of Hotel Churchill Wheat. Uniformity emerges from the chaos, and it's true; memories of patched walls and mismatched colors fade into the past, to the point where you really can't remember what it used to look like.
I've been thinking about writing this post ever since Extreme Makeover: Home Edition started showing on ABC. It's an obvious fact that the network makes a lot of advertising dough as a result of its philanthropy, but I've always been impressed by how ABC never holds anything back. The extravagance of the show definitely lives up to its title. Not only does the construction team erect an entire new house in seven days, the network throws in a family vacation and usually drops some other perks like scholarship money or a new car, not to mention the specialized equipment in each gaudily done-up themed room, which will help the child in the career or hobby of their choice (as if 15-and-unders know exactly what they want to do with their lives).
Every time I watch the show, I get tears in my eyes. The families are overwhelmed by the sudden redemption of their homes. They can go from rickety shacks to veritable palaces practically overnight, and it's almost too much for the family to handle. I kept thinking that this is how it will be in heaven, when God reveals the mansion he has built for each one of us on the foundation of Christ, directly over the spot where the termite-infested, moth-rotted shanties of our sin used to stand.
But the show and my painting job point to a deeper truth than the one embodied in heavenly mansions. Wherever we have let water damage bow our construction, wherever we have used dark paneling to patch light, wherever we have tried to fix the hole in ourselves with something other than Him, God covers completely. In our weakness, there is an opportunity for God's goodness to paint over our insufficiency. When he's through with his masterpiece, let it be said of our redeemed hearts: Man, it looks so different in here. You can't even remember what it used to look like.