Old houses need a lot of tender, loving care. Especially those made of wood. And, since Danny has spent the past three summers reconditioning his 1969 Ford 3/4-ton truck, complete with forest service-approved utility bed, also reconditioned, our old home place was starting to look a little ragged around the edges.
I'm happy to report that the truck is back on the road, and just in time, too. The first order of business was a load of gravel for the driveway. The little pebbles had grown thin through three years of wear and tear.
With company coming in July, Danny also was anxious to finish a long-delayed plumbing project upstairs, which led to a little electrical work, which revealed a need for more insulation, and the truck was pressed into service again.
His next priority was to repair the bases of several of the porch pillars. He finished that job with a fresh coat of paint on each pillar.
The gleaming white pillars provided stark contrast against the less-than-gleaming white siding on the house proper, so we've spent the last several days scraping, repairing and painting the two sides of the house sheltered by the wraparound porch. It took years off the old place.
Oh, we've still got miles to go before we're done, if we ever are. This old house has provided shelter for somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 years, or more, and has the scars to prove it. There may not be enough paint in all of Southwest Nebraska to cover all of her scars. And that's OK. She may still need a few coats of paint, but she sure has character.
Other than "helping" my dad paint when I was a child (a short-lived job; I'm a messy painter), my first solo paint job was the kitchen in the little alley house in Worland, Wyoming, where we lived when Ben was born. I chose yellow with brown trim and absolutely loved the final result. The alley house also had a lot of character and I remember how well the paint hid the kitchen's defects.
It was a momentous discovery. Paint, you see, like love, covers a multitude of sins.
Peter talks about that in his first epistle as he seeks to encourage those early believers to live lives worthy of the Lord's love, by the Lord's Spirit.
"Above all," he says in chapter 4, verse 8, "love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
He's right. It does. Or, rather, it should.
Some folks, it seems, are all too happy to point out our failings, our failures, our sins, past and present, to all and sundry. They do not hesitate to bring them to our attention, either, sometimes repeatedly. Others never name the sin, but mete out the punishment they think it deserves. Still others are quick to believe a bad report and never think to ask if it's true, oftentimes perpetuating a lie, deepening an unseen wound.
When my folks fought, and they fought frequently, they both had a litany of past sins to throw at one another. When those ran out, they picked up whatever was handy -- a dinner dish, an ashtray, even their wedding rings, wrung right off of their fingers -- and sent them sailing. I don't know what you call that, but you can't call it love.
Everyone is familiar with how steep my learning curve was for cooking even the simplest of meals. I've written before about my "all-heel" meat loaf (1/4 to 1/3 pound of hamburger, a handful of crumbled crackers, one egg, diced onion, ketchup, salt and pepper, well-blended, shaped into a loaf and baked for one hour in a 350 degree oven) and my well-intentioned chicken and dumplings that resulted in miniscule slivers of chicken swimming around a single, giant dumpling.
Love, young love, put the fork in Danny's hand and brought it to his mouth, where he chewed and managed to swallow barely edible meals, with a smile. He loved me then and loves me now and would rather choke if it would spare my feelings.
Thankfully, my culinary skills have improved somewhat over time and my skin is almost thick enough to take gently proffered criticism. Still, what a different world it would be if we were all as tender-hearted today as my young husband was then.
Admittedly, sin isn't found in bad cooking. And sin certainly must be dealt with. It is a soul infection that must be identified, sooner rather than later lest the infection spread, and appropriate remedies must be applied.
The primary ingredient in those remedies must be love. Forgiveness sought must result in forgiveness granted. Not repeated castigation. Not repeated announcements made to any and all who would hear of sin and celebrate another's downfall. Love forgives and moves on, unfettered by sin, unfettered even by the memory of sin. Love is not diminished by sin. Love overcomes sin.
How quickly would we come to our Lord, in need of forgiveness, again, if he responded with castigation, accusation and a recital of all that he had already forgiven in us? Simply put, we wouldn't come to him at all. We would try to hide our sin, compounding it, until our hearts were overgrown with calluses, hardened against even the most winsome overtures of love. But isn't this how we treat one another? In our families, in our homes, at our workplace, even in our churches, love is measured by an eyedropper and sin, left exposed, raw and bleeding, eventually infects the entire Body of Christ.
We all carry scars. Some add to our character. Others are gaping wounds, festering and deadly. Our only hope is to bring those gaping wounds under the freely flowing love that was first poured out on a cruel cross. Only in that stream is true healing and true freedom found. And only in that stream can we find love sufficient to cover a multitude of sins.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.