by Joanie Butman
Experienced another Lucille Ball moment this week. I was in the middle of a do-it-yourself project that required black spray paint. I purchased a can along with some other items and unpacked the bag on the kitchen counter. When I went to move the paint into the garage, I dropped it and chaos ensued. The cap cracked off and the nozzle hit the floor releasing a torrent of black spray. Stunned, I watched as the can gyrated wildly like an exploding soda coating everything in the vicinity – including me. I did the only thing I could. I grabbed a wad of paper towels and dove on it much like a soldier dives on a live grenade to protect his comrades. What else could I do? I wrestled the can outside and returned to assess the damage. I could already hear my husband’s response, “Joanie, you got some ‘splainin to do!” It will take me weeks to get the paint out from under my nails.
Luckily, I had some OOPS! handy, though it had one of those childproof tops that I cursed and struggled with while watching a large pool of black paint congeal on my antique floor and drip down my white cabinets. It took the strength of additional tools to pry it open, but eventually I was able to clean up the mess without leaving permanent damage. My fear was that my DIY project was going to cost me a small fortune to restore damaged floors and cabinets. It would not be the first time one of my ‘projects’ went awry; hence, the Lucy reputation.
So, what’s the spiritual lesson here? You may never be called upon to tackle an exploding can of paint, but we’ve all been challenged by people or circumstances that threaten to darken our homes and lives with their own black cloud. It could be a bitter, angry relative determined to project their own pain onto others or perhaps a cancer diagnosis. Left untreated, both can cause irreparable damage.
In my experience, the only kind of OOPS! to reach for in those instances is a Divine dousing of the Holy Spirit. God’s peace, comfort and love can brighten your darkest days, giving you the strength to tackle the most persistent blackening agent. Regardless of what you may be going through, remember that nothing is permanent with God except His unfailing love, mercy and compassion.
Furthermore, nowhere has one of my DIY efforts been more costly than in my spiritual life. Christianity was never meant to be a solo endeavor. We can’t do it ourselves. That’s exactly why Christ came and why He instructs us to be in fellowship with other believers. Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. We all have to choose what kind of relationship we’ll have with Christ, which ultimately determines the type of relationships we have with everyone else in our lives. Jesus’ own words stress the necessity of Christian fellowship for spiritual health and growth:
Love one another. (John 13:34)
Encourage one another (1 Thess 4:18)
Carry one another’s burden (Gal 6:2)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph 4:32)
Build one another up (1 Thess 5:11)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
In the same way I needed the assistance of tools to access the necessary remedy during my ‘accident,’ there are times so dark and difficult that we need the support of others as spiritual instruments to unleash the healing power of prayer on our behalf. It’s the only antidote with the muscle to permeate the most stubborn sludge life has to offer. It is balm for the soul. Prayer may not change our circumstances, but it can change the manner in which we face them. There will be times when we are too weak (either physically, spiritually or both) and need others to carry us through to the other side of our pain.
By the way, my project (a new coffee table) turned out lovely, but I couldn’t imagine the final product while I was on the floor struggling with an unruly can of paint. The same can be said of our suffering. Life is messy. We often can’t see beyond our pain or are too busy taking care of necessary logistics to think beyond what needs to be done immediately. It’s at those times (when life has you in a headlock) that we need to trust that God can transform our battles into beauty. Nothing is beyond His restoration and transformation. Choosing to let God’s will unfold in His perfect timing has, without fail, led to the most beautiful and unexpected results in my life despite the painful and messy process.