Shortly after buying our home, our washing machine overflowed and flooded our entire garage. We frantically called a plumber and anxiously awaited his diagnosis. We’d barely adjusted to paying our monthly mortgage and all the utilities and STUFF that go with homeownership at that point. So when the plumber looked us in the face and announced that our pipes were BAD and needed several thousand dollars’ work as soon as possible, we were devastated.
Quickly, though, we moved into survivor mode. In other words, we pretended like the problem didn’t exist.
Oh, we knew – and worried – that our pipes could collapse at any moment. That fear, honestly, has held us at least partially captive for the past decade. Every time our toilet gurgled or our sink drained slowly, we cringed, holding our breaths and wondering, Could this be the time? Has our plumbing ticket been called?
And in the meantime, because the problem had not been properly solved, we were forced to call that plumber back to our house every few months to put a Bandaid on the issue.
Isn’t that sometimes how we go about living?
We notice a problem but think it’s going to be too messy, too risky, too complicated to fix right now. So we make do. We work around it. We ignore it.
Funny thing, though. Much as this girl who avoids confrontation at all costs would like to believe that ignoring issues will make them go away, I think we all know IT DOESN’T. It simply creates obstacles in our lives, as we go out of our way to avoid the underlying issues causing trouble.
Ignoring the problems might mean we don’t have to make the big investment up front, but eventually, what might have begun as a small problem will erupt into something bigger, messier and often costlier than we ever imagined.
Last night, a plumber spent four hours in our house, trying to clean out our drains. I waited patiently for news, shushing my daughter every time she asked when he would ever be finished and go home to his own house. And when he walked into our living room, nearly in tears at the news he had to deliver, I found myself reassuring him that it was okay, that we’d known this was coming, that we’d pay whatever it cost and yes, isn’t it too bad that we didn’t sell the house before this happened?
Despite our greatest wish and best ignoring intentions, our plumbing problems hadn’t gone away. In fact, when I did the math, I was less than surprised to see that we’d spent approximately the same amount of money on dozens of occasional plumber visits than we would have had we simply fixed the problem ten years ago.
This story isn’t simply a cautionary tale about old houses with old pipes. It’s a clear reminder to me – and maybe to you, too? – that it’s better to deal with problems right away, rather than to delay the confrontation, the complication, the cost of facing a challenge and finding a solution.
Maybe your problem is a misunderstanding between you and your husband that you’ve been avoiding. Or unmet expectations that you sweep under the proverbial marriage rug.
Or perhaps it’s a co-worker who irritates you with her overpowering perfume or his insistence on taking credit for every success or her tendency to gossip and stir up trouble.
Are you ignoring a communication breakdown, a disappointment, a mistake that you can’t truly move past? Are you telling everyone who asks – even yourself – that you’re past the pain, over the heartbreak even though you continue to hurt and bleed? Are you pretending like everything is okay, while going out of your way to avoid a person or a place or a topic of conversation?
Is it possible you’re paying the price of the problem, even though you have chosen not to face it?
Today could be the day you face your problems instead of averting your eyes or walking the long way around. Today could be the day that, finally, you can relax your jaw and breathe deep. Today could be the day that you stop allowing those ignored problems to hold you captive.
And when you choose to face those problems and work through them? God will be with you. Remember . . .
- Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
- I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
- Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24)
- Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
The final bill to fix our plumbing problems was a mighty blow that’s going to take a while to recover from. But as frustrating as it’s been to go without running water for a few days and scrape together money that we don’t really have, it’s also a strange relief to finally get this situation fixed for good.
Maybe it’s time I take that approach with a few other problems I’ve been avoiding.
What about you? Have you been ignoring a problem? How would it feel to finally face it?