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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?

{Photo by Richard Moross}
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  1. 1
    Andrea says:

    Terrific! I am so sorry about the plumbing! We are in the middle of making a decision that could be a game changer in our families lives. I have ignored it and today I will face it! Thank you!

  2. 3

    Mary,
    Thank you for speaking truth so plainly and in language we all can understand! I am a peace-maker, a very non-confrontational person, so yes this type of thing is extremely hard for me to do. God does call us to hold our tongue, but He also calls us to speak the truth in love. I have several issues on my plate that I need to quit skirting around and tackle head on. I pray that God would give me the ability to do so, but to do it in a loving and Christ-like way. Thank you for an honest post that I needed to hear!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      It’s so hard for me, too, Bev! I’m thankful for your reminder that we are to speak the truth in love – THAT is one that I need to remember on a very regular basis!!

  3. 5

    So well said! Interesting that you paid the price the whole time you avoided. Really great point! Thank you.

    • 6

      You know what’s funny is that I didn’t even realize that part of the situation until I was in the midst of writing this piece. Love how God reveals truth to us!

  4. 7

    GREAT and practical application!

    Sorry for your plumbing issues, but thankful that they will not be fixed!

  5. 9

    What truths! And to think we laugh at our cats when they think they are hiding, yet their tails are in full view. Is that not the same as us burying our head in the sand, pretending a particular situation does not exist, so we do have to deal with it? Yes, procrastination is a friend I listen to way too often. Not today, I will face my issue, with God’s help.

  6. 11

    As an experienced ostrich all I can say is “amen” … you are so right too that the cost of keeping our heads in the sand is greater over the years than dealing with the problem when it presents itself. Thanks for your reminder.
    Carole

  7. 13

    I’m in the middle of this–ignoring the problem. It’s been years in the making. It’s not getting better. But I’m so worried that if I bring it out in the open, it will all fall apart and nothing will be left. I try telling myself that love covers a multitude of sins. But I’m not sure that love means pretending it doesn’t exist. Lots of wisdom in your post, and lots to think on. Thanks for tackling hard things.

    • 14

      Praying for you right now!! Love does cover a multitude of sin….. BUT, sin also grows under the cover of darkness and it’s only in the exposure to light that freedom is found. You are right that things might completely fall apart, but sometimes that is the only way to begin building it back right!

      I love Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT….especially verse 24!

  8. 16

    Yes, there is a conversation that I need to have. My victim-mentality introduced codependency into my life and I so fear rejection that I have been putting off establishing boundaries and letting this person know that I have to be responsible for my own life. That I have to let God do the healing, the surgery on my soul. I am in a recovery program that has been a tremendous help to me, but now I have to take what I am learning and apply it to my life. It has been a painful process, but I know God can turn ashes into something beautiful. Asking for prayers as I do the hard things necessary for healing. Also asking for prayers for my teenage daughter, that she will have patience and see Jesus working in me. Thank you!

    • 17

      Christina, it sounds like you are taking great steps toward resolving your situation in a healthy way. Yes, God can and does turn the ugliness of our lives into redemptive beauty. Praying your family can continue doing the hard things and seeking God’s truth in all of it!

  9. 18

    Yep, I’ve done this. I ignored/avoided/denied much in my first marriage and it didn’t help but enabled further offense. I’ll never know if confronting earlier could have made a difference, but the price paid was dear and costly. I make a conscious effort now to get things out into the open, often to the annoyance of others…but lessons have been learned and I don’t want to repeat the same errors.

    • 19

      The one person I don’t avoid confrontation with is my husband. He’s not always a fan of that, either, but I’ve explained that it’s because I trust and value him more than any other person. I love the way you share with us how learning from your previous relationship enriches and changes your new one!

  10. 20

    Thank you for this gentle reminder. As non confrontational as I am and with the current situation I’m facing, I can say I have attempted to face it. Several times. But to no avail. I would cyclically make attempts, wait to see change, then end up at the same result. Nothing. Please pray for God’s guidance for me through this. This issue is still unacceptable to me, although I’ve given ample to time to see some effort. Please pray for me. That I will hear God’s voice and be courageous enough to do take action.

    • 21

      Praying that you find strength and courage to continue to follow God’s voice in your situation. And praying that He will make way for change and you will come out the other side praising His name for the miracle He’s done in your life!

  11. 22

    My family background always has been to ignore the problems and just be pleasant to one another. Emotional outbursts were taboo and letting people know we are hurt and need help was censured. We were to be strong, independent and never whine when life was unfair. Some of these traits that were instilled could be a good help but others were to our detriment. Currently I have a very surface relationship with my youngest sister who is the caregiver for my mom. She will never let me help and says, “Everything’s under control.” To confront her about specifics means she will become angry and shut down. It seems futile to “rock the boat” and demand to know what is happening. My husband wants me to be more aggressive and tell her that since I’m a sibling, I should have the information. It is too hard for me to do so as it means I have to risk the relationship with the sister as well as with my mom. But I know I can’t ignore the problem. Thanks for letting me vent and give me direction.

    • 23

      Ohhh, Kathy, that sounds so difficult. I have several surface family relationships as well, and I know how hurtful and frustrating it can be. Praying you can seek and find God’s wisdom to finally make positive changes in your family.

  12. 24

    I’d like to add, as someone with a rare chronic illness, an encouragement to those who are avoiding the fact that there is something wrong with their health. You know there is something not right. It isn’t going to go away, and it will probably get worse. Grab a friend, take a deep breath, say a prayer and go see your doctor!! Please. God will supply what you need to get through this, whatever it is.

  13. 26
    Patti Chriestenson says:

    Super article and analogy! Thank you so much for your insight!

  14. 27
    Alice W. says:

    Thanks for the post, just what I needed. I too have issues with keeping my hostilities to myself when I should let others know how I feel. My daughter is my caretaker and she wants to do everything her way as she lived alone after a short marriage she thinks that she should be in charge now as then. It is so much an issue with us until I have almost given up and let her lead as she will. Please pray that we will come to some kind of understanding that things can at least run peacefully once again. Its so frustrating.

  15. 29
    Beth Williams says:

    Mary,

    Super great analogy and article. Sorry about the plumbing problem, but like you said fix it right the first time and then forget it.

    At times I can have problems and not even realize it. I go about my days until at one point I explode, usually on my husband. Then we sit down and talk about the issues and we pray also. That way the problem gets solved and we both feel better.

    • 30

      Great point, Beth – sometimes we can’t face a problem because we simply don’t know it’s there yet! But once we do…well, then, it’s time to get to work! :)

  16. 31

    So very true, Mary! As a Life Coach, I think of all of the issues people deal with (or not deal with) in their lives. In fact, most life issues and obstacles in people’s lives is due to ignoring the truth. They put a band aid on by making a small change, convincing themselves that it’s been dealt with and won’t crop up again. Over and over, they face the same issue year after year, spending huge amounts of time and energy they can never get back when if faced head on up front, it would have been a one time, much less expenditure which would have freed up years of stress, anger and frustration. Actually, the cost is often the loss of a job, marriage, etc. Don’t buy the lie that it’s harder to deal with something than to put it off. :) Blessings!

  17. 32
    Rachael says:

    What if the problem can’t be fixed. I have a problem and the only way i can thank off for it to be fixed is for the other person to forgive me for a mistake I made . I mistake I made by accident which part of a prayer request I was making for healing for our relationship. I wish this other would forgive me. Unless God has some other way other than the person forgiving me to fix the problem which has been going on for two years . I think my problem is unfixable. Losing this person who is my sister in law hurt me so much and my husband has suffered to . to only have we lost this sister in law but also lost the rest of my husbands family as this sister in law has poisoned the rest of my husbands family against me and now they hate me to. I wish so much that i had never written my prayer request two years ago becasue my sister in law and the rest of my husbands family would still be in my husbands and my life now.

    Rachael

    • 33

      Oh, Rachael, I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. How difficult for you and your husband! I don’t think your situation is something you’ve been ignoring and need to face; unfortunately it sounds like it’s out of your hands for now. I have two [formerly] close friends who have never forgiven me for something, so I know how frustrating that can be. It sounds like you might just be left to pray about it for now, with hopes that your SIL will forgive you and your family can be restored. I’m praying for you right now, that your relationship with your husband will remain strong and that your family will be healed…

  18. 34

    Plumbing problems is not to be ignored. It will just lead to another major problem after another.

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