The man who owned our house before us got a really great deal on some very drab beige paint. I know this because there are still 5 gallon buckets of it in the basement and it covers all the walls, ceilings, and up until last week, even the crown moulding. That beige is everywhere, making everything look dingy and depressing. This summer I began a project I call “The Great De-Beigification of 2019.” Basically, I’m trying to paint over as many rooms as I can to drive that ugly beige back into the lesser used corners of the house. Week after week, I’ve been up on a ladder painting and sweating. It’s been hard work, but the transformation of our home has been really rewarding to watch, too.
Maybe it’s the paint fumes talking, but I’m always looking for the deeper lessons in what happens in my life, so last night as I painted, I began thinking about the beige paint and it occurred to me that as we’d lived around it, we’d lost awareness of it. It wasn’t until I began painting that I suddenly realized how drab it make the rooms I was working on, how washed out everything had been, how that paint color had even influenced my mood or made everything seem dirty in a way I could never identify. The beige paint had obscured all the good features of the house as well, hiding the beauty of the woodwork and taking the focus off the stained glass.
So…what does this have to do with Elul, this month of return?
It’s easy for me to let the beige in the rest of my life take over. It’s easy to do what’s easiest in the moment, what costs me the least time or effort and then start to see my entire life become drab and lose meaning. It’s easy to also fail to see the inherent potential and beauty in the people around me, obscured because all I see is their own beige or mine reflected. Soon, life is drained of color and all I can see is the negative around me.
Elul challenges me to put in a little work remodeling myself. It challenges me not to become someone completely different, but to return to who I really am. I didn’t bust down walls in my house or add in new features…I just painted the walls a different color and that changed the whole perspective and perception of what was already there. Similarly, sin covers up the treasures that are already within me, hiding them in dull beige. In the month of Elul, I’m given a unique opportunity to connect with G-d, when he is so close and waiting for me, and together we can repaint and get rid of all that dinginess and start off this new year with a bright new perspective.
I can also start looking past the beige I see around me in the people I interact with and instead focus on what is beyond it, the unique gifts and beauty within them. This is particularly important with my teenagers, who seem to live in a cocoon of disorder at times as they work on transforming into the adults they will be. Can I look past the dirty socks and and messy hair and mistakes to the bright, beautiful people they already are inside and instead work on building that up? Can I be slower to criticize and lecture, only adding to the beige in the house and instead brighten things up with a kind word and encouragement?
We all have our beige in our lives and if all I’m doing is painting walls in the house, I’m missing the bigger picture. Elul encourages me to look deeper in myself and look more favorably on others so that this upcoming year, it’s not just my woodwork that looks richer and more beautiful.