On the first day of the New Year I find myself sanding and painting two bedside tables. This was not my idea. We got them years ago at a church rummage sale, and they were old and beat up then. Maybe just call Amazon. But Pam suggested we simply paint the tops, and the two shelves beneath. Gray. Leave the dark walnut legs and sides.
As I sand the water-stained wood, the old varnish vanishes in patches. It has to look worse before it looks better. I wipe down the legs with some old Formby’s wood restorer I have in the garage. The walnut legs don’t shine, like new. They glow, like old. Then I paint the top and the two shelves with an oil-based paint that can penetrate the wood, stripped raw from sanding. Oil paint smells serious to me, smells like restoration, like forever.
A new year inevitably calls us to renewal, taking things that aren’t working—or working well—and putting them right. Our first impulse, like mine with the two old tables, is usually to get rid of what’s not working. Get a new one. But for the most important things in life, that’s not usually an option. Despite the promise of advertisements, you can’t get a new body. You have to accept and renew the one you have. You can’t get a new backstory and history, you have to own the one you’ve carried since birth. You can’t get new children, new brothers and sisters, new mothers, new fathers. You have to find a new way to love the ones you’ve been given. Except in the extreme, you can’t get a new husband, a new wife. You have to pray for new eyes.
God promises, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). That’s not a guarantee of replacement, but a pledge of renewal. God can do this because God is love, and the only way worn-out things can be saved is to be loved into a new, transfigured life. Whatever you seek to change right now, pour on it all the love you can muster.