(written August 2007)

The solution was simplicity itself. I couldn’t change my basic working position and I couldn’t in any way limit the amount of moisture pouring off my face nor could I abandon the task. But, to end the unceasing stream of liquid that kept streaking my glasses and at times pooling into mini-lakes on the lenses, totally obscuring my vision, the answer was uncomplicated. I simply removed my glasses – half blind is better than totally blind.

One aspect of Antakya (Antioch on the Orontes river) – which most likely was a factor in the founding of the city and its prosperity in ancient times – is an almost constant breeze that blows up the valley from the sea during the hot summer months. The trees all have a distinctive lean to the north east (on the mountain the angle of the trees caused by the wind is greater than 45°). When the temperature strays into the mid and upper 30’s (mid and upper 90’s for those who ‘feel’ in Fahrenheit), this breeze doesn’t just make it tolerable, but actually it could be described as ‘pleasant’.

The down side is the breeze doesn’t always, um, breeze.

This day it wasn’t ‘breezing,’ with the result that we felt the temperature regardless of F° or C° and we were, uh, perspiring freely.

The task itself was straightforward and unsophisticated. The Turkish elder and his family had been living in a rented flat which was built many years ago utilising sea sand. Sea sand is abundant, looks and feels like non-sea sand – but it has it’s own unique characteristic – the salt weakens concrete over time. As time passed, so the strength of the concrete erodes and this year, in addition to the constant rain of small white particles that needed to be cleaned up every day, large parts of the ceiling began falling down. This was not plaster, mind, but large chucks of concrete – the stuff of which the ceiling is made  and when it parted company with the remainder of the ceiling, the rusty reinforcement bars were left exposed – naked testament to the sickness within. It was time to move.

By God’s grace they were able to move into Antakya proper – formerly they lived in a village eight kilometres out of town. This was very close to where he works, but not close to the meeting room and the fellowship.

The new rented flat is a step of faith for them – but with their income any flat would be a step of faith.

Their new flat has just been built. For them great excitement – for me the excitement was somewhat diminished:  I know new-builds have their own teething problems and as a matter of fact, I was dealing with one of them.

Fully, freshly, newly painted the flat is; maybe not the colours you or I would choose, rather bright and in-your-face but vibrantly painted and clean nonetheless.

Er, that is to say, the walls were clean. It seems a life ‘constant’ is that some painters focus on where they are applying the paint without regard to where the paint may actually be going…. and my task was uncomplicated – sit on the floor, scrap and scrub with a view to remove, eradicate and obliterate all the spots and spatters that decorated the ceramic floor tiles.

In the past I have noted that in the odd foray into the task of covering a wall surface with some coloured emulsion that wet paint cleans up with amazingly little effort and very quickly, although I must admit that when I ‘paint’ I am loath to stop the splashing of paint in order to clean up my frequent and liberal spills. Now, as I knelt on the floor, slowly scrapping the small and not so small coloured testament to the painter, I learned two things.

The first is, for some paint types, you scrap it off and if you do not physically remove it from the floor, it will settle and re-attach itself in a new resting place.

Wonderful!

After spending hours, literally crawling around on the floor bathed in my own personal shower of perspiration I find the objects of the exercise have survived the ordeal and are happily nestled on the floor in new locations. This does not naturally nor automatically bring a smile to my face. The second time the spots scrap off easily – but again, if not physically removed, they will contentedly find a new home and from thence again taunt and defy.

The other thing that I learned, er, well, learned again, as I think I’ve had this lesson before, was the job of cleaning up from the incidental splashes  and spills is easy to do when the paint is first spilled, splattered or sprayed.  However, it becomes a huge, laborious, strenuous and massive job once some time has passed.

Additionally, wet paint cleaned up immediately, leaves no scar on the surface, but with the best will and careful attention, cleaning up the paint that had been give time to settle and bond and integrate required much more effort and sharp metal tools which left scratches, scraps and otherwise disfigure the floor.  In my diligent efforts to remove every trace of the spotted testament, much effort and strenuous labour was required and the result was somewhat marred by the inevitable scratches and blemishes that resulted.

Ah, with life’s lessons there are many applications. When preparing video, it is said you should aim to “shoot to edit”. In other words, shoot so that the material requires no editing. How many hours have I spent trying to ‘fix’ a moment of inattention, an oversight in preparation be it video or audio that isn’t what it should be. Sometimes a simple task, one that ‘should’ take five minutes has required ten hours of labour to make right – and not really be ‘right’, just ‘best as’ at the end of it all.

Ah, ah, and in my walk with the Lord to clean up the spatters, spills and sprays when I stumble and do not live up to my High Calling, or I have a ‘weakness of the flesh’, or ‘I make a mistake, or as the Bible simply describes it, I sin, well, when they are fresh they are relatively easy to deal with – although repentance never feels easy – and before permanent scars and blemishes develop.  But if I delay, let time pass, then it is much more difficult to deal with, sometimes it takes vigorous effort, sometimes it leaves scars and blemishes which live on as lasting reminders of my failings – sometimes the innocent are marred because of my failing especially when I allow them to fester.

This too, seems to be a recurring lesson for me.

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