When I was a child, my father had a gunite swimming pool built in our back yard. That pool is still in use today. In places, the coping is cracked, some tiles have a few chips, and the diving board is gone, but overall, our “cement pond” is in good shape for a 52-year-old.
Growing up, I spent countless hours in the pool, and still enjoy swimming. On days when I swim, I know I should open the skimmers and empty the baskets of collected debris—leaves, sticks, and the occasional frog or mole—but often, I let it ride. Sometimes, when I take off the skimmer cover and see a dead something, I can’t make myself push past it to grab the skimmer basket handle and pull it out, so I return the lid and swim anyway. Other times, the smell from the skimmers signals something needs attention, but I swim to the other end of the pool instead.
Often, we ignore areas of our lives that need attention in the same way I ignore maintenance of the swimming pool skimmers. We know some work needs to happen, but we blast past what needs attention and move on.
Following are reasons why forward motion requires attention to the obvious:
Swimming pool skimmers are designed to capture items that fall into the pool and corral them to prevent them traveling to the bottom, being sucked up later with the vacuum, and clogging the filter. I’ve seen some interesting things collect in the skimmers over the years—dog fur, plastic toys, huge bugs, big sticks, items of clothing, and a variety of wildlife. The skimmer basket prevents objects from recycling into the filter and makes it easier to clean out. But if you wait too long to remove certain things, the smell makes it impossible to ignore.
We all have areas in our lives where debris collects. Your debris may be anger and resentment resulting from a perceived slight, a painful experience, or a broken relationship. Or your debris may be guilt over something you’ve done or failed to do, said or failed to say, or the unforgiveness you’ve harbored for decades.
Now is a good time to examine the debris that has collected in your mind and heart, the kind of trash that has an aroma that permeates your soul and affects you in ways you might not be aware. It’s time to skim your head and heart so you can continue forward motion unencumbered.
Ignored Issues Distract
When I’m swimming, and I know sometime about the pool needs my attention, I can’t really relax. It’s better if I take time to scoop leaves, clean out skimmers, or vacuum, before swimming, floating leisurely, or lounging and reading. Otherwise, I’m distracted by what I’m trying to ignore.
In our lives, another word for ignoring is often procrastination. We put off work that we know is going to require effort, especially if that effort involves taking an honest look at areas of our lives we’d rather not examine. Do you need to address anger or admit you have a sour attitude toward someone because you are envious? Is pride an issue you refuse to acknowledge, but one that cause lots of problems in your life? Do you feel superior to others, never admitting your own flaws? Taking an honest look at issues and dealing with them removes distractors and fuels forward motion.
Regular Maintenance Preserves
The key to our pool lasting this long, and being in good condition for its age, is regular maintenance, including weekly cleaning and chemical balancing, treating with algae preventative, and winterizing and covering in the fall. Maintenance takes time and attention, and, at times, can be frustrating.
It’s the same with personal maintenance. Our bodies, minds, and spirits require attention beyond everyday living. You can try to ignore health, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues, scum that slows your body, clogs your thoughts, and alters your actions, but eventually you can’t sidestep any longer.
Make personal maintenance and preservation a priority. In years to come, you’ll be thankful you took the time to care for your body, employ self-discipline, work through hang-ups, clean out stale attitudes, and feed yourself spiritually.
“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Proverbs 27:19 NIV