by Emily Conrad
The daughter of a pair of habitual home remodellers, house flippers, and landlords, I learned as a girl to paint ceilings white in order to make a room feel more open. So, when my husband and I remodeled our own tiny house, I painted all those ceilings (and a number of the walls) white. We needed all the space we could get.
Then we moved to a house where the largest room on the first floor was painted a tan color similar to the color my coffee is after I’ve doctored it with plenty of cream and milk. The color isn’t really that dark, but it’d been applied to all four walls and the ceiling.
Formerly, the room had been used as a living room, and having visited this house during that time, I can attest to the fact that the paint helped the space feel cozy and warm. But for me and my plan to use the space as a dining room, the color felt dim.
One of my first acts as lady of the house was to paint the ceiling white and two of the walls an off-white color called Dust Flats that has an ever-so-slight pink to it which makes it more charming that it sounds.
And just like that, the room feels so much lighter and more open. It’s been the place of lingering meals and game nights, and I’ve made one spot at the table my usual workplace.
There are some rooms in my mind that need this kind of makeover. These rooms are made of situations in my life that are not what I’d like them to be. I made choices, and they didn’t turn out the way I wanted. My mistakes painted rooms dark and depressing, but what could I do about them?
I didn’t have any ideas until I was telling one of my brothers about it, and he said, “Why do you keep calling that a mistake?”
At the time that I made the decisions in question, I’d agonized over making the right choice. I’d prayed and enlisted others to as well. Eventually, I made a decision. The decision didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
These are the facts of the room, the dimensions that don’t change.
But like I have a choice about what color covers my ceilings, I have a choice when it comes to how I think about these situations.
When things don’t go how I envisioned, I have a tendency to paint the ceiling dark with doubt. I label my choices mistakes and believe that even my best attempts at following God in a decision are flawed. I didn’t make the right choice last time, and odds are, I’ll make a bad choice again next time.
And yes, I’m a flawed human. That’s a fact of the situation, too.
But it’s a fact God knows full-well. That’s why He came to die for me. And no human error can ever be such a big mistake so as to derail the perfect will of God. This perfect, omnipotent God has declared Himself my loving father.
And this God offers another option when things go awry (or when they go well): trust that He is in control and that even when the next thing He has for me doesn’t look the way I’d hoped, that doesn’t mean I made a mistake. And even if I did make a mistake, He’s still loving me, caring and providing for me, and making me more like Christ.
There is no wound He cannot heal, no desert He’ll abandon me to, no mountain that will not move, no place I can go to escape His presence, no mistake I can make to derail His plans. These are the other facts of the story. Facts I’d been ignoring.
Thinking this way changes my perspective. It brightens everything. It reminds me that I was never in control, but I serve one Who is. One who is familiar with my weaknesses and longs to show His strength.
What a bright and spacious place we inhabit as Christ followers, but if we don’t paint the room in the right colors, we’ll miss it.
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?He who walks blamelessly and does what is rightand speaks truth in his heart.Psalm 15:1b-2, ESV
I love that this specifies our need to speak the truth in our hearts. To ourselves. Speaking the truth–the whole truth–in our hearts is how we repaint those dark emotional spaces.
Instead of looking at the negative with the darkness of doubts and worry, we can light up the room with the rest of the truth. With the positives. With the hope we have in Christ.
Shortly after this conversation with my brother, I was talking with another friend. She said a few negative things about her situation–being unemployed, living at home–but then I stopped her.
Taking other facts from her life, facts about her career and situation, I tried to show her a way to repaint her story. I revisited things she had accomplished, special traits she has that others don’t.
“Oh. That does sound better.”
Truly repainting a mental space takes time and effort, not just a simple conversation or blog post. But it starts, I think, by being handed a question-shaped paint roller.
Why am I thinking of this problem this way?
Ask the question with compassion, believing there’s another way to paint the room, and you might be surprised at the difference a little change can make.