It is finished! I feel a little blasphemous saying that, but I can’t help myself. The pool is installed. It is done. Why the great sigh of relief on my part? Well this has been a long time coming. So long, in fact, I am not sure that I can remember how long this has been going on.
I believe it was the early summer of ’07 that we found a man just south of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Craigslist that was selling an 18×33 swimming pool. We could have it for next to nothing if “we” come and get it. Of course coming and getting meant helping to disassemble the pool and “we” meant me. So off I go one night. Waking up the next morning close to where the pool is, I arranged to meet the man who is going to watch me — I mean help me — take down his swimming pool. I am back in Knoxville before nightfall with the whole thing loaded in the old green Dodge Caravan. You may remember that van, it was the one that spent its final year on this earth without the benefit of air conditioning.
What did we get for our trouble? Well, I soon found out that what we had was less than satisfactory. The pool was older than we thought it should be — we being someone other than me. It was not in as good shape as we thought it would be — again, we being someone other than me. There were some rusty spots near the bottom of the wall. In short, it would not do. Given the high price being paid for aluminum at the salvage yard, we did not lose as much as we might have on this first pool.
Yes, I said the first pool. The next year we found a newer pool, this time on Ebay. A couple in a suburb just south of Chicago had decided they needed more house and they were moving. I do hope they did not overextend themselves. Nevertheless, they could not take their pool with them. In reality, they had the good sense not to try. What they did was to place an ad on Ebay in order to get someone to pay for the privilege of disassembling their pool for them. We snapped at the opportunity. After all, I had experience.
My oldest son, Joshua, and I took off one night and drove to somewhere north of Indianapolis before we stopped for the night. The next morning we found our way to the place where I would spend one of the longest days of my life. The lady of the house, even though she had not installed the pool, and even though she was not actually helping to dismantle it, was nonetheless most generous with her unsolicited advice on how best to take the pool apart. So generous in fact that I on more than one occasion contemplated letting her dismantle her own pool.
Our plan that day had been to load the pool, this time into the back of the Dodge Dakota, and head for home. However, the day was too far gone and the lights on the Outback Steakhouse sign were just too bright. We stopped for the night, delaying for a few more hours unloading our pool and storing it temporarily in the garage.
How temporary is temporarily? Well not as temporary as you might think. We still had some site preparation to do, a retaining wall to build, that sort of stuff. Before we new it, the summer had ended.
A new year rolls around and the pool still needs to be installed. I so want it to be up and done. But it does not get done. I am having doubts about whether or not I can actually get it back together in a way that will be safe and usable. I think I can do it, but I am not doing it. I start and I stop, telling myself that I am moving the project along slowly but surely, when in reality it was moving more slowly than surely.
One day as I was working on getting the pool up, I just stopped and said out loud, “I can’t do this.” I am not sure if I had known that all along and just did not want to admit it or if I just came to the realization while working on the pool that day. Either way it was a moment of liberation. What a demon pride can be! My stubborn pride was turning something that was supposed to be fun for my family into something that was dreadful and burdensome for me. I went in and told Patti. “Honey, I can’t do this.” She is such a loving wife she did not even hint that she suspected all along that such was the case. I am fortunate to have her.
Pride is a powerful and potent sin. It easily lures us into dead-end alleys of self-reliance and isolation. It taunts us into to trusting only ourselves while God yearns to bear our burdens with us and for us. When we allow it to control our lives, we miss the freedom and peace that God intends for us. It turns the joy that God would have us experience each day into dread and burden. There are times when the very best thing we can say to God is “I can’t.” God, I can’t do this without you. God, I can’t make it without you. God, I can’t live the life you desire for me without you.