I’m blessed to still own the home where I grew up. In the backyard, is a 51-year-old gunite swimming pool, a rarity in today’s world of vinyl liners. The pool has been the source of great joy and relaxation over the years. I have childhood memories of swimming at night with my parents, back when the pool was new and heated, and I remember fondly countless “swim parties” and youth fellowships around that pool.
Even now, my stress level decreases the moment I dip a toe in that cement pond. Just sitting by the pool, enjoying the view of the surround area with towering green canopy and bright blue sky is balm for my soul.
However, a 51-year-old pool is not without its share of issues—cracked coping, disintegrating grout between tiles, peeling paint, filter malfunctions, and occasional chemical imbalances. This summer proved especially challenging because we’ve experienced a greater amount of rain than usual. A few weeks ago, the pool went to sleep one night, pretty and blue, and woke up the next morning with a bad case of the dreaded… (cue sinister music)…mustard algae!
Thankfully, I have a diligent and determined pool maintenance man. Although he grumbles at times about how much work the old pool is, he is persistent in figuring out problems and fixing them.
Relationships are a lot like an old pool. They rock along just fine until one day you realize anger or unmet expectations or indifference or unforgiveness has taken over and some major maintenance is necessary. Here are some things to consider about relationships:
Relationships aren’t self-sustaining.
One year when Mama was in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation facilities following surgeries, we decided not to uncover the pool. Big mistake. By the next spring, the pool was a swamp, home to a variety of frogs, snakes, and clouds of mosquitoes. Clean up was long and laborious.
Likewise, relationships with deferred maintenance end up in a bog-like state. They require attention and nurture if they are to grow and develop. Relationships aren’t self-sustaining, and if allowed to drift, may prove a herculean task to restore.
Relationships require joint effort.
Last winter, we didn’t do a good job maintaining the pool cover. Life intervened, laziness won, and we weren’t diligent about removing excess leaves and water from the cover. In the spring, we paid for it, literally, when clearing the mess and treating the water cost a lot more than usual. While the pool man sees to maintenance in the summer, he is off duty in the winter, when it’s up to us to stay vigilant.
Relationships are similar in that one person doing all the work usually isn’t successful. Each person has to be involved or the one doing all the work grows weary and gives up. It’s been said relationships require 50/50 effort. A more accurate figure is 100/100; each contributing fully.
Relationships thrive when you focus on positives.
Many people don’t want to deal with the maintenance and expense of having a swimming pool. Our pool, even with its quirks, maintenance issues, and expense, has been a source of great joy over the years. We celebrated special occasions around that pool, swam with friends and relatives, and experienced times of solitary reflection and renewal.
Sometimes, when relationships are challenging, we forget to remember times of joy and simple everyday blessings. Maintain forward motion by taking time to reminisce about the happy times as well as positives of the present while anticipating future joys.
Relationships require discussion of problems.
Often, when the pool guy’s name pops up on my phone, I cringe. He hardly ever calls when all is well, but he blows up my phone when problems arise. Sometimes, I don’t answer right away because I’m just not ready to hear about excess phosphates or algae or wonky chemical balance or filter issues, but eventually, I have to call him back, get the bad news, and find out what is required to move forward with a solution.
Discussing problems is where most relationships fall apart because no one wants to take time to talk about the nitty-gritty. Communication is hard and talking about difficulties often precipitates raised voices and flared tempers. But dealing with relationship problems is a lot like cleaning out a closet; you have to pull everything out, admit some things are out of style, be willing to throw some stuff out, and then clean up your mess. While the process is tedious and time-consuming, the outcome is well worth the effort.
Make the most of relationships today because tomorrow may be too late.
As the end of the swimming season draws to a close, I try to swim as frequently as possible, but often skip times when I could swim thinking I’ll swim tomorrow. Some years, the weather is uncooperative in the final days before the cover goes on the pool. Other times, a crisis arises that consumes my time and attention, and then suddenly, swimming season is over.
In recent days, we attended the celebration of life service for a sweet friend and neighbor. It seems we are saying good-bye more frequently and much too soon to many precious friends and loved ones. Sometimes, we let relationships slide, thinking we’ll call, visit, or make plans soon, and then, unexpectedly, illness or death changes everything.
Many people neglect their relationship with God in the same manner, thinking they’ll deal with spiritual things later in life. But nothing else matters as much as your relationship with God. Take time to nurture that relationship above all others. Don’t wait, because tomorrow may be too late.
“Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble” (1 Peter 3:8 MSG).