Painting over the Cracks - A talk by Derek Chittick

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Espace spirituel anglophone

dimanche 2 décembre 2018 à 8h45

Durée émission : 10 min

Espace spirituel anglophone

Painting over the Cracks

What an amazing summer it’s been, weather-wise! Great for sunbathing; great for gardening, especially watering! And great for painting the outside doors and shutters, as everything is so nice and dry – no dampness to undermine the paintwork and cause it to peel later on; at least, that’s what I’m hoping.
The last few weeks have been partially taken up with outside painting, and it’s meant a lot of preparation work before actually applying the paint itself – sanding, scraping, applying masking tape and then a preparatory coat before the actual final coat. Some of these tasks are extremely tiresome, and the temptation is to try to take shortcuts, miss out some of the stages, in order to get finished quicker and get back to the relaxation, or on to other, more pleasant, jobs. But the reality is that if we want the final job to look its best and to last for a decent length of time, all the stages have to be undertaken; otherwise, the paint doesn’t take properly or it doesn’t spread evenly and it deteriorates all the sooner in the wind, rain and strong sun. In the end, it actually makes more work rather than less, as well as showing up my workmanship as being shoddy !

Painting over the cracks only hides the damage for a short while. I’m reminded of the story of how Catherine the Great, not long after she became Empress of Russia, declared that she wanted to tour her vast realm and see the land and the people. She was actually German in origin, and only became Empress by virtue of being married to the Czar and inheriting the crown when he died. So she wanted to see what she now ruled over.

Her request, however, caused panic among her courtiers, due to the state of the living standards of the vast majority of the population. It was a case of a very few living in extreme wealth and privilege while the vast majority lived in extreme poverty, with dirt, disease and dilapidation widespread. This was not something that the nobility wanted their Empress to see, in case she decided to make some sweeping changes which would damage their privileged state. They came up with an ingenious solution – Catherine could make her tour of the Empire by boat, using the numerous waterways that thread their way across Russia, and they arranged for all the walls closest to the rivers and lakes to be whitewashed, so that they would look good from a distance. She wouldn’t actually be allowed to get up close and personal in any way that would let her see the real state of things among the peasants and industrial workers.

The plan worked in that Catherine saw what appeared to be a well-tended and contented nation, living in ideal circumstances, and as far as I know, she never looked any further into it. Subsequent rulers of Russia were left with a legacy of discontent that finally erupted in the Revolution of 1917 which swept Catherine’s descendants aside in a bloodbath, and left Russia under communist rule for 70 years. Millions suffered and died, and you could argue that it was largely due to an inadequate paint job!

The prophet Ezekiel talks about the people of Israel building a flimsy wall, then covering it with whitewash in order to make it look good. However, he wasn’t talking about a physical wall, but about the spiritual life of the people which in turn led to a flawed morality and a broken justice system. Outwardly, they tried to appear good and righteous, they observed all sorts of religious ceremonies and practices, but in reality, injustice, oppression and godlessness abounded – they had built a flimsy wall and covered it with whitewash, but, said Ezekiel, it’s going to collapse.
So how does all this apply to us? Well, it’s just as tempting for us today to try to take shortcuts in the moral and spiritual realm as it was for the people in Ezekiel’s day, and as it is in the realm of DIY. It’s much easier to outwardly conform to the current behavioural standards of our society or church, than to allow the Scriptures and the Spirit of God to probe our lives and pinpoint the areas that need a bit of work done. We try to paint over the cracks and the rough areas with our idea of respectability, rather than apply the sandpaper and scraper to the faulty bits in order that our lives be brought into line with God’s standards and commands. And yet, without that sort of preparation and effort, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, what we’re building in our lives won’t last, and a dab of paint won’t help.

Changing the metaphor, the apostle Paul talks about the possibility of building our lives with gold, silver and precious stones, or with wood, hay and stubble. One type of construction will last, and the other won’t. In other words, some of what we’ve built into our lives will last for eternity, and some won’t, and the exact proportion of gold or of stubble depends on us. What are we building with in our relationships, our attitudes and our actions? Will it last for eternity or disappear in time, sooner or later? Are we keeping up appearances or building to last? If we’d
rather do the latter, then God, the Master Builder, offers us the presence and power of His Spirit to enable us; or we could just muddle on, on our own. Which would you choose? Have a good week.

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