How painting furniture is like God's work in your life.
My new dressing table. Follow the jump for the story behind it.
In my previous house, my Dad built a tailor-made desk into my room for me, which was everything; desk, storage, dumping ground and dressing table. So when I moved to this house I was suddenly faced with a lack of furniture. Of course, I would be building a new desk and workspace in the studio, but I was lacking somewhere to do my hair in the mornings (terrible, I know.) I also had this huge room with basically only a bed in it and I felt quite lost in all the empty space. There was, so to speak, a void in my life which needed to be filled.
I wanted to invest in something that I could foresee me using in the new house next year, something timeless, and some definitely not Ikea! (Don’t get me started on Ikea!) I found this lovely 1950’s Queen Anne style dressing table/writing desk on ebay and snapped it up.
As you can see from the picture, this desk has seen better days. Fundamentally, it’s well made, solid and fit for purpose. But during its life it had incurred scratches, stains, dents and knocks. It was filthy from years forgotten in a barn, and veiled in cobwebs. Its original beauty was faded, marred.
And isn’t that us sometimes?
We are fearfully and wonderfully made! You are a walking, breathing, moving piece of incredibleness, designed and crafted by a loving God.
I don’t know about you, but very often, I don’t feel like that. Life will beat you up. We get scratched and stained by the things that happen to us, and the people who encounter us. Sometimes the scars lie deep. And sometimes it can feel like our beauty has faded, we’re unfit for purpose, and we’ve been forgotten, metaphorically left alone in the back of a barn.
Know this: God is in the business of renewing. We are made new again in Him. Jesus came to give life, life to the full. He restores.
Sometimes, however, God’s work in your life doesn’t feel for your good. I was reflecting on this while I worked on the desk.
I saw potential in this desk. I saw what it had been intended to be, what it once was, and what it could be. But it was going to take hard work to get it there.
To begin with, I had to clean it. To gently wash it with warm water. To soothe it and clean away the dirt. Not too bad. Appealing even. When God starts to move in our lives it can feel soothing, refreshing. Like someone is finally caring for you. It’s wonderful.
The next part is somewhat rougher. I took sand paper to the desk. To take off the rough edges, smooth out the scratches, and remove the stained varnish. This is a harsh process, but necessary to prepare it for the future works. If I didn’t sand the desk back, nothing I did in the future would stick. Unfortunately it meant I ended up with a desk that looked like this:
Often, it looks worse before it looks better. But once you've started you need to continue otherwise all you've done is ruin a piece of furniture. It's the same for us with God. God has done this before and he'll see it through. But I wonder, if the furniture had legs would it get up and run when the sanding got tough? It can't, but we can and we do. And then we just end up ruined. We need to stay the course and let God do all he's planning to do, to become the finished piece.
God will sand you back. He will work hard on you and you may not always like it. It can hurt. You have to give up things and people you love. Things that you thought defined you. You have to surrender to him and you may have to endure pain.
God’s work is always good, and he is always faithful. He will work on you to completion, as long as you let him. He is working toward perfection. Perfection takes time, it takes stages. It is a process.
Next, I had to paint the desk with undercoat to prepare it for the colour I would finally make it. Undercoat is pretty boring to paint with; it’s easy to rush to get through to the final colour. Patience is important. I needed several layers of undercoat, which took a while, before I was happy to go ahead.
Sometimes God’s work in your life will take longer than you would like. You can feel stuck in the same place for a long time, as though nothing is changing. But God’s work must not be rushed. He has a plan, and he knows what he is doing. He is not slow in answering, and his arm is not too short to save. For me, times like this take the most trust of all. I may not be able to see or feel what God is doing in my life, but maybe that is because he is waiting for one layer to dry, before beginning the next.
Finally the undercoat was done. It actually doesn’t look too bad does it? Especially with the fashion for shabby chic. But I don’t want a shabby chic, half done desk, and God doesn’t want a half done, half shabby person. So we can’t stop here, we have to go forward to completion.
The last coat turned out to be the hardest one to paint. The gloss paint was the most difficult and I had to paint very carefully and very slowly. Yet I could see the final result starting to take shape.
Once I had painted it, and gone over to make sure it was as good as it could possibly be, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I was done.
The drawers of the desk no longer fitted! This required yet more sanding to get them back to size and fit. And this time I had to be careful not to chip the paintwork I had worked so hard on! It was a slow final process. I so wanted to take the desk home to my room, but there was no point in doing so if it wasn’t working.
I imagine there are times when God just wants to take us up into his everlasting arms, to his New Jerusalem. Thankfully he is patient, and he will keep working until it is right. He will come again one day, in power and glory, but not until the time is right, not until all the work has been done. So He waits, and He works.
My finished desk, now functional in my room. I sit at it every morning, run my fingers over the paint and remember the work it took. And I remember that God is still working on me and in my life.