The Parable of Paint

Megan Smillie // Tales From the Trenches


August 17  

This is a story about the seventeen month renovation of a staircase in our home. It’s a story about trust and paint and how my husband and a lovely gal at Home Depot were practically on a first name basis by the end of it, but mostly it’s a story about how sometimes the eyes with which we see things are just plain wrong, and that through a hefty dose of light (divine or otherwise), we can learn to trust the big guy in charge—or the gal at Home Depot as the case may be (*grin*).

Have you ever tried to buy a can of black paint? Like, super black. The blackest you could ever imagine? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Apparently even black paint must be mixed with a base of white in order to be considered an actual can of paint. (Now, there are probably a hundred different lessons to be drawn from this, but that’s not the point of this post—at least not today). Everyone knows that mixing the colors black and white produces the color gray. And so, what my husband and I were actually seeking was the very darkest gray imaginable. Not black. We just didn’t know it.

After picking out a color card with “onyx” written on it and eagerly bearing the newly-mixed paint home, we opened it to discover a can full of decidedly GRAY paint. Super annoyed, I immediately thought the gal at the store must have made a mistake. My husband marched back with the can of wimpy “onyx” paint and spoke with the gal. She obligingly added more black to the mix, painted a sample for my husband, dried it, and showed him the very BLACK result. Perfect! He came back home and triumphantly opened the can of paint. SO. VERY. GRAY. What??!! I even went so far as to paint a portion of one of the stair risers—GRAY. GRAY-ER. GRAY-IST. Arggghhh. 

Once more, my valiant husband drove back to Home Depot. The gal saw him coming. I’m sure she grimaced. He explained the situation, and she cheerfully added more black to the can. This process happened FOUR TIMES, until my husband bought an entirely different color of black paint, with the SAME RESULT. On the last go ‘round, the sweet gal at Home Depot asked him about the lighting in our home. Was it warm or cool? How much natural light? And so on. She again painted a sample and dried it for my husband. It was most definitely black. “It’s our lighting,” she patiently explained. “The color is absolutely black, and after a few coats have dried, it should be perfect.” We had no choice but to trust her.

I painted each riser, three coats on all twelve of them. Patiently, trustingly, and all because the sweet gal at Home Depot said it would turn out all right. And you know, it did. All twelve risers, perfectly matching the dark stain of the bannister. And it got me thinking about the way we view God’s movements in our lives. How mismatched and random it seems sometimes. Maybe, when we open our own cans of paint handed to us by our loving Father, we gasp in dismay. Not *this* paint, Lord! How in the world am I supposed to deal with *this* color paint? But then maybe we humbly accept the “paint” and begin to slowly, full of trust, use it to decorate our lives. And then our eyes are opened to see and experience the wisdom behind the cans chosen for us. We start to think that maybe God does know best, and our gasp of hopelessness becomes a breath of awe and wonder at his divine wisdom and love.

And maybe instead of that initial moment of despair, we should, instead, try to trust, to be patient, and go with what has been set before us. To see things in a different light. 

Because shining a light on it, reveals the true color—the lighting is everything, isn’t it? 

And the divine light of God? A game-changer, as always. 


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