A Coat of Paint Won't Cover It

My clothes, my arms and legs, and even my hair were spattered with paint, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed playing a small role in giving the church nursery a fresh look.

I found the transformation amazing. A simple coat of paint reversed the effects of ten years of wear and tear, making the room bright and inviting again. The time sped by as I wielded my roller and chatted with other volunteers.

As the hours passed, our conversation progressed from travel plans and how to keep kids busy during the summer to more weighty topics.

A younger woman shared the story of a father who had been mostly absent from her life. During the occasional times they were together, his words and actions caused her pain. 

 Now after years of silence, he wanted to pick up the relationship with his daughter and grandchildren as if there had been no strain. In fact, he suggested the three generations take a family trip. My friend struggled to figure out a healthy response to his overtures.

Though he had treated his daughter with indifference, alternating with manipulative behavior, this man thought a vacation could wipe away decades of hurt. He made no attempt to repair or even acknowledge the damage he had done. His approach ignored an important principle. 

Paint can cover, but it can’t mend.

In other words, paint can update an old look. It can hide fingerprints and scuff marks. But it is no match for gouges in drywall or for crumbling plaster. 

Real damage requires real repair.

It may not be as obvious visually, but the same thing is true in relationships.  Attempts to whitewash a deep wound with gifts or a fun experience are doomed to fail. Shifting the blame or justifying our actions won’t work either. 

We can all think of a time when we have been hurt. From that perspective, we can agree wholeheartedly that offenders need to do what is required for true healing in a relationship. 

But what if we are the offending party?

If we have caused pain, there is only one thing to do. We need to put away the paint and the pseudo-apologies, and do the real work of making things right.

It never feels good when there is tension or outright hostility between us and the people we care about, but there is even more at stake than we may realize.

It is not possible to be in fellowship with God if we are not in right relationship to the people around us. 

Jesus made this clear in his life and teaching. As he taught on the mountainside, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that you brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23)

If we are in the wrong, we need to make it right, rather than pretending that there isn’t a problem or waiting for it to blow over. Instead of a painting job, we may have a carpentry task in front of us. And if we feel we are not up to the job, our carpenter Savior can show us the way and give us the strength we need.

*My next posts will offer some Biblical examples that show us how to mend broken relationships