I have my own bathroom at the house where I’m staying. It’s a fine place with a shower and a mirror and even a skylight. The door doesn’t like to stay open and there’s carpet in weird places, but as bathrooms go, it’s pretty swell.
One of its many interesting features is wallpaper. When last Interpreter and family remodeled, I guess, wallpaper was an in thing, especially two different kinds of wallpaper in the same color scheme separated by wooden chair rail molding. Wallpaper is less an in thing these days, so Interpreter’s wife (I do hate calling her that as though that relationship is what defines her, but Interpreter in Pilgrim’s Progress doesn’t have a wife and there isn’t a ready character in that list onto whom she really maps for me. So we’ll stick with it for now and my poor feminist heart will just cringe) has decided that the wallpaper needs to go.
As with most household chores connected to redecoration, though, wallpaper doesn’t go without a fight. It takes time to peel it off, especially if it’s not a priority and especially if you can’t be bothered to get the specific tool for removing it. So part of the “rent” of this bathroom is taking down the wallpaper when I think of it, when I have time for it, when I feel like picking at loose edges. It’s an exercise that’s good because it has concrete and measurable outcomes when my day job has neither, but it’s also rife with possibility for someone like me who likes to see metaphors in pretty much everything.
See, the thing about wallpaper is that it doesn’t come off like a lid. There’s no magic corner that you pull and the whole sheet of it peels with a satisfying shrrrrrrip! At least not this wallpaper; no, this wallpaper has some large chunks that come off neatly and many other that are tiny strips, little scraps that leave other corners to pull. And wallpaper has the decorative layer and also a second layer, and the two layers don’t always like to come together, so sometimes you peel the same area twice—and the second layer really, really likes to stay on the wall. It’s a very interesting look in that bathroom right now, that’s what I’ll say about that.
But this is my life right now, Reader—not pulling off wallpaper but the wallpaper itself. Like that bathroom, I will not end this summer looking the same as when I started. There are some events—weddings, patients who die, friendship shifts—where huge chunks of the paper come off in sheets of change. There are other events when only the top layer obliges removal, the bottom layer of who I think I should be stubbornly clinging to the ways things are. And there are other events where nothing comes off, nothing changes, where change has to come in tiny little strips that gradually change the shape of the wall piece by piece. Some places are hard to get to, and some you have to remove huge things like the towel rack to really get at; there are pieces of me that are getting wholesale shifted around right now, and that’s not always pleasant and is rarely easy.
Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to you, this idea of God randomly pulling off my wallpaper self with patient fingers rather than a wholesale chisel to show me what’s underneath, what He wants me to look like, to get me ready for whatever new coat of paint He has in mind that will make me even better. But when I stand in this bathroom on the weirdly-present carpet under the long skylight and peel wallpaper, I feel like I’m scratching away at my own ready-made metaphor.
Here’s to hoping neither God nor Interpreter’s wife is really gunning for pastels next.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)