The plumber glanced up from his prone position under the sink. “I’ll have this done in a minute. Oh, and I got that other problem fixed for you!” The tub upstairs had been draining painfully slowly, so we had asked him to auger it out, while he was installing our new downstairs plumbing. “There was something solid in the line, but I shoved it on down. I don’t think it went out completely, but hopefully, you’ll never have another problem.” That was over ten years ago.
I thought about the plumber’s comment two years ago, just for a moment, when the upstairs sink refused to drain anymore. Drain cleaners did not good, so I eventually got a light duty plumber’s snake and shoved it down the line until it hit something solid. After a good bit of grunting and shoving, it moved on down the line beyond my reach. The sink drain worked as good as new. There was a thought in the back of my mind then…”You don’t suppose the plumber didn’t take care of the problem permanently?” But, everything was working just fine, so I put it out of my thoughts.
A couple of days ago, the downstairs toilet refused to flush and all that my efforts with the plumber’s helper did was to force the dirty water up into the bathtub. I cast about for an answer and found it when I ran a borrowed heavy-duty plumber’s snake down the vent stack on the roof of the house. It went down for many feet and then hit something solid. The thought from a couple of years ago is now screaming in my head. It has to be! This is the same something solid which troubled the plumber over ten years ago. It has never been removed at all, just shoved on down the line to cause problems at some different place and at a different time.
“The chickens have come home to roost.” I hear another of Mom’s favorite sayings in my head, along with the accusatory thoughts. I never really considered the picture, but I can’t avoid it tonight. The idea is that evil deeds (or even careless ones) which are done will invariably come back to haunt us. In my fertile imagination I see a hard man, knowing that it is the reason they have raised them, demanding that his wife kill the chickens for supper while he is out working that day. The tender-hearted woman can’t bring herself to do the distasteful deed, so as soon as he is gone, she shoos the squawking birds out into the woods. Knowing that her husband will expect chicken for supper, she acquires some from the meat market and prepares them. Unfortunately, while the man is enjoying his meal that evening, he first hears and then sees the parade of the hens as they head for their accustomed roosting spot in the chicken coop. The lie is evident and can no longer be hidden beneath the web of deceit. The chickens have come home to roost.
So it is with my plumbing problem. Each time the issue has been addressed, it has been dealt with in a haphazard way, not at all intending to complete the task, but simply to achieve the desired result. Clogged drain? Make it work. Will there be problems later? Oh well. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We’ll deal with it if it comes up again.
It doesn’t make sense, does it? The car leaks oil, so we buy more oil and pour it in. But the problem is not that the engine didn’t have enough oil in it; the problem is that there is a seal leaking. Pouring more oil in will temporarily keep us driving down the road, but the only thing that will permanently resolve the real issue is to repair the seal. In the same way, if you look around, you will see evidence of an amazing array of half measures with which we “solve” our problems (buckets under leaky faucets, tape on glasses, etc.), all the while knowing that we haven’t solved anything, but have simply put off addressing the issue.
You will, no doubt, have realized by now that I am not actually worried about leaky engines, or faucets, or even clogged sewers, and certainly not poultry returning home for the night. Our lives give evidence of so many areas in which we have merely given a “lick and a promise”, but have never fulfilled that promise. Don’t you think it’s time that we actually solve some problems and set things right? Perhaps we should start by learning which are symptoms and which are causes. Yelling at your kids? That’s a symptom. Lying to your wife? That’s a symptom. Gossiping about your friends? You got it…a symptom. If all we do is to shove the problems down the pipe a little way, they will certainly show themselves in a different place again, and soon. It’s time for us to deal with the heart of the issues. Funny. That’s exactly where most of these problems are to be found–in our hearts.
I like a verse I found recently in Ezekiel, where God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” Better than that, He says that He will remove the something solid that we have been pushing around in an attempt to fix it ourselves. “I will remove your heart of stone…” No more shoving and working to fix symptoms. No more hoping that the issue will not show up again. What should have been done in the first place is accomplished. See! All things have become new.
Oh, in case you wondered, I’m pretty sure that I’ll have to use the plumber’s snake at my house again sometime. I just shoved the something solid a little way further down the pipe, so the bathroom fixtures would drain. Time will tell.
Chances are, the chickens will be home to roost again soon. I can hardly wait.
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.