Painting with a Broad Brush

There is a lot you sign up for that you don’t actually know or understand when you become a mother. Given that my two boys are well past the baby years, I thought I was clearly over most of the unpleasant messes and smells that are involved in motherhood during the early years. I’ve worn spit-up in my hair and changed my share of oozing diapers, so seriously, I thought I’d conquered this beast. Even though my boys are not so old that they are not still entertained by passing gas, they are past the stage of burp and blow it in your face (at least with their momma), so how was I to know the worst might still be yet to come.

Picture this. Four college boys. Aggies. Residing in one small duplex. For two years. No evidence of any broom, mop, sponge, or other cleaning supplies on the premises.

Oh, and did I mention they babysat a large hairy dog all spring semester?

I can’t begin to describe… well, yes, actually I can describe in excruciating detail… what we experienced in the “massive decontamination clean-up and pray you get your deposit back” adventure we had in Logan’s duplex last Saturday, but suffice it to say… It was not pretty. And, it resulted in a lecture over lunch at Rudy’s in how cleanliness is next to godliness. Now, before someone gets the urge to email me and tell me that phrase isn’t actually in the Bible, I know that. But the word “clean” appears 120 times in 106 verses in the NIV, and I think the idiom packs a pretty powerful punch and can be used quite effectively for mothers. And, if the thought that cleanliness is next to godliness was not enough, I also offered to make the boys a sticker chart if that would help them get their chores done. Call it desperation.

On the long drive back to Waco, I got to thinking… some might call it hallucinating given the vast amounts of cleaning supplies I inhaled throughout the day… but I’ll stick with thinking since it sounds better.

Do you ever paint with a broad brush?

I do. Especially when I’m not careful. I can take one thing, and then let it color my whole perspective. One dirty duplex equals my kid is ill-equipped for adulthood. One dirty duplex equals my parenting skills are grossly (no pun intended!) inadequate. Of course, I’m being a bit dramatic here. Brad would tell you I have a flair for that, but I think you can recognize the trap we’re all prone to fall into. We paint with a broad brush with the people we love, with complete strangers we see on the street, with our co-workers, with products we see on TV, you name it. The one snippy comment your spouse makes translates into “he doesn’t love me as much as I love him.” The sign “Will work for food?” held by the homeless person on the street translates into “If I give him money, he’ll just go buy alcohol.” The LifeStyle Lift commercial tempts you to think it will not only fix your sagging chin, but it will also make you feel beautiful and worthy.

Why do we let ourselves fall into the trap of painting with a broad brush? And, more importantly, how can we stay out of it?

Logan wrote a paper for a graduate level ethics class he took this past spring. The paper was a culminating assignment for the semester, and he was to write his life principles. Heavy stuff for a 22-year old. Based on what I told you above, it will be no shocker that he did not have a life principle about cleanliness, but what he did write is powerful. He chose Galatians 5:6 (NIV84) as his overarching life principle, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision not uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

That’s the answer to avoiding the trap of painting with a broad brush. Our response to others (and to ourselves) should not hinge on the conditions that exist. It’s not the dirty duplex or a spotless home. It’s not the snippy comment or the flowers he sent. It’s not the “will work for food” sign or the gainfully employed. It’s not the way someone looks or the way you look in the mirror. Our response should not hinge on the conditions that exist, but too many times, it does. The conditions or circumstances are of little value.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through LOVE. My faith expressing itself through LOVE. Your faith expressing itself through LOVE.

Love will always paint a better picture.

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