I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy coming home. After a long business trip or vacation, the best part is walking in the front door. I’d rather eat a hotdog at home than an expensive meal at a five-star/four-diamond restaurant out of town.
We experienced this sense of homecoming just the other day. We had been away for two weeks in the Northeast. It was a pleasant mix of vacationing at the beach, just hanging out with family, catching up with friends and several speaking engagements woven into the schedule. Arriving at the Orlando airport, we drove home exhausted but excited to be home once again.
We had a friend, Debbie, watch the dog, house and water Mary Ann’s plants while we were away. Debbie is a faithful friend so we knew everything was going to be in good order for our homecoming. I had cut the grass shorter than normal just before leaving, anticipating two-weeks of growth while we were away. Driving up to our house, I was somewhat surprised by the jungle-like height of the grass. Then I noticed how all our plants and trees were lush, green and full of blossoms. Debbie must have done a remarkable job of watering the plants each and every day I thought.
Unlocking the front door, our dog, Jitterbug, ran in tight counter-clockwise circles to express her pleasure for our return. She danced, gave her little yelp and then went back to sleep in the other room, as she is easily bored. Having learned the science and joy of traveling light, bringing in the luggage only required one trip from the car.
Before leaving on our holiday, I had been on a crusade to eat everything in the house that might go bad while we were away. I was successful in this war on waste, so even though the cupboard was bare upon on our return, that is a much better reception than opening the refrigerator door only to be greeted by a science project gone terribly wrong. One year I had been less successful only to be accosted by a yogurt that had mutated during our trip, growing hair and legs.
Coming into the house, the plan was to immediately make ice tea, the elixir of life in the Gladkowski household, followed by a relaxing, refreshing and somewhat idle day of just hanging around. Perhaps, if all went well, grabbing a nap in our own bed was also a possibility in the schedule.
Moving into the family room, I looked out into our back yard and pool to be greeted by green grass and an equally green pool. While we have an automatic pool pump, filter and salt chemical system, we had many summer monsoons during our vacation, dumping lots of rain that overwhelmed our system.
So, my dreams of relaxation and sloth were immediately replaced by all-out chemical warfare. Since the chemicals in the water were so depleted, I made a couple of trips to the local pool shop to get the necessary potions to purify the pool. First, I had to “shock” the pool with a double-dose of liquid chlorine and stabilizers. This was followed up by four very large bags of salt that I had to spread around the perimeter of the pool. All in all it cost me more than $56.
- brush down the pool
- stop the pool pump
- drain the filter
- remove the pool filter
- hose down the filter to remove all the trapped green “junk”
- replace the filter
- prime and restart the pump
- replace dirty DE in the filter
If there was a way to only have to clean everything once, or even twice, it would not be so bad. But starting that very hour, I began repeating this process multiple times. At first the water was so green that it required hourly cleaning, moving to every 90 minutes, then every couple of hours. Over the next two-and-a-half days I repeated this process 19 times to restore our pool to sparkling blue.
That’s the way it is with life. Something happens and life gets “green” and messy. We want an instant fix to a problem, but there is none. Just this week I listened to several people express their hurt, disappointment and pain. Some are looking for relief, some are searching for why, and all are looking for direction and a solution:
- After long and fruitful years of service, lost their job as the organization transitioned to new leadership with nothing on the horizon
- A misdiagnosis has left a husband and father lethargic, depressed while his future recovery potential is uncertain
- Stress in family relations has replaced love and grace with hurt, disappointment and fear
- Being told that their job was redundant 8 months after relocating and buying a house for a new role in a large organization
- Feelings of loneliness and abandonment
As I listened to these people pour out their sorrow and souls, I watched and felt their pain. These were no small boo-boo’s where a spray of Bactine and a Band-Aid would fix them up. The wound was open, the hurt was deep, and the pain was real.
Their emotional suffering was accompanied by changes in their appearance. There was this cracking in their voice, emptiness in their eyes; their backs and necks were hunched over from the weight they carried inside. As they spoke, all of them opened their hands palms up as if to show the emptiness of their life, asking why and to receive back their blessing.
While listening to people in trouble is not my favorite thing in life, it is a sacred time and I count it as an honor to be with them. I have learned the hard way what not to do being with people in desperate times like this and it is not:
- quote a poem or song
- tell them you know exactly how they feel
- offer empty encouragement based on some good-feeling philosophy
- promise a miracle with instant restoration
- reassure them to hang in there, things will get better
What we need in times like this is hope and help from someone greater and stronger than us. Someone who is there and hears when we cry out, they understand and comfort. There is such a person and that is Jesus Christ. He is:
- greater than us and our problems
- strong enough to anchor us through the storms of life
- understands and empathizes with our weaknesses
- remained pure as he endured temptation
- strong, yet approachable
- will receive us, responding with kindness
I can’t say that I know what you are going through, understand your circumstance or can solve your problem. But I can say that I do know Jesus Christ and he is the one true solution for you and your life. He is the ultimate truth and solution for whatever we may go through. He stands ready to clean us and our messy lives up.
Blessings - Chet
Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives culture and faith.
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