Don’t Rush Through the Uncelebrated Back Side of Your Life

Don't Rush Through the Uncelebrated Back Side of Your Life

I painted for nine hours on Monday –Sherwin-Williams’ Cloverdale gray. The Lord gifted me with a cool, overcast day in the middle of August, and I wasn’t about to waste it. In mid afternoon, after about six hours of painting, two neighbor ladies passed by the house on their walk.

“Hey, that looks like fun!” they said.

“Yeah, fun,” I said.

“Well, you’re doing a great job!” they cheered. It was a good boost of encouragement.

This morning I was on the ladder again, cutting in around the garage doors, when the kind woman from two doors down pulled up in her bright orange Jeep and hopped out to tell me the painting looked so good. She loved the color and thought I was doing a fantastic job.

As she drove away, I appreciated her kindness but thought to myself, This is so weird. I’ve been painting the house almost every day for five weeks straight, but it’s only now that I’m painting the front of the house that anyone sees what I’m doing or is giving me a cheer.

No neighbor saw me when I was on the back patio, trying to squeeze my body and a paint brush between the north wall and the garden window.

No neighbor saw me dripping sweat at the back of the house, trimming the lilac to within an inch of its life so that I could get a ladder up against the wall.

No neighbor saw my soul growing along the back bedroom wall, as I listened to sermons and testimonies about Jesus while I painted.

Caulk. Cut in. Roll.

Caulk. Cut in. Roll.

Caulk. Cut in. Roll.

Every day the same black paint shorts.

Every day the same nasty old paint shirt.

Every day trying to scrub the newest layer of Cloverdale gray off of my skin.

Just me and Jesus most of the time.

And now the neighbors want to stop and tell me I’m doing a good job?

When the lady in the orange Jeep drove away, I dipped my brush into the gray paint and thought about all of the things in my life that have been done quietly and without applause.

Wiping peanut butter off of dimpled fingers.

Matching socks.

Trying one more time to balance the checkbook.

Writing a grocery list.

Reading my Bible and praying before the day starts.

Putting chicken in the crockpot.

Reading the same picture book to the same kid for the fifth time in one day.

Tidying my Spanish classroom at the end of the day and worrying about the struggling students.

So many hours and hours and hours that have been just me and Jesus. No one shouting loudly from the street, “Hey, good job!” No neighbor even seeing the effort.

Ann Voskamp, in The Broken Way, says:

…you press your back up against the steadying strength of an oak tree on a humid Thursday out in some far-flung place and you look up into those tree limbs and realize half that tree is underground, and you can only see the half rooted in the light.

All of the hours I’ve spent painting this summer have also been spent praying and listening and learning from the Lord. I was comfortable out there with him and knew that he saw my work, which I was doing for him to begin with. I mean, it was lovely for sure to have the neighbors applaud, but it was sweeter on the back side when only Jesus witnessed me catching paint drips with the end of a brush.

So don’t hurry.

If you are working and growing underground, Jesus sees you. Don’t try to hurry to the front, where the neighbors think you’re awesome. Really does it even matter by then, if they see your lovely progress, if all along you’ve been working quietly and steadily with the King noticing? Talk to Jesus. Enjoy his presence in the quiet, unnoticed back places of your life.

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  1. This is just what I needed. Thank you so much for your writings. I’m at a place where I’m getting celebrated & it makes me uncomfortable but I’m reminded that I have put in a lot of work, with the Lord helping me every step of the way, to get to where I am today. Thank you, Christy!

    1. Getting the applause means so much more when you’ve found your value and satisfaction in Christ long before that. I pray you’ll be a great outlet of his grace to many!

  2. So good! Thank you Christy for this encouragement today! ?

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