Hidden Challenges: Five Ways to Maximize Unseen Growth Opportunities

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

July 27, 2017

My wife and I have been involved in the restoration of two farm houses which are nearly one hundred years old.   These homes have seen generations of life, and not unlike many old farm houses, have seen much better days.

The farm hand who lived in them the last thirty years was kindly, but the landlord was unconscionably derelict in providing a nice habitation for the farm hand and his family.   One of the first things we addressed after our purchase of the farm was the septic systems associated with these homes.  The tenant had lived there for thirty years, and didn’t know where the septic tanks were, let alone when they were last serviced.   Keep in mind that septic tanks are supposed to be serviced every 3-5 years.

We hired a firm to run lines down the sewer pipes to locate the tanks.  In one house we got a close proximity; in the other, the lines were so invaded by roots that we had to guess where the septic might be.

I rented a back hoe and with my helpers (two of my grandsons) and began digging.

I would take a few inches at a time where I thought the tank was, while my wife helped guide my passes with the hydraulic shovel.   I took a slow deliberate stroke, and suddenly my wife ran away screaming.  I panicked, thinking she was hurt or something.  I had hooked the lid to the concrete excrement vault (crap tank), and as I lifted it to the surface, clods of dirt were splashing into the nearly full chocolaty syrup vault.  My wife was running from the splashing sewer slosh.

These tanks were filled with a mixture that was thirty years in the making.  I called the honey pot sucker and he emptied the two tanks containing over 2200 gallons of liquefied doo doo.  He said he had never seen such sludge.  One tank was so full, the sludge was backing up into the pipeline, which had disintegrated, forming only an earth pipe.  Fifty feet of some of the nastiest earth I have seen.

Over the following couple of months, we installed new baffles in the tanks, new lines, towers for easy lid access, and now the receptacles are doing their job as the leach fields beyond the tanks receive a newness of life as well.

As I pondered this I thought of all the things in my life I had put off, simply because I could.  If the toilet isn’t backing up, all must be well in septic-ville.   Why would anyone want to dig up things concerning aspects of their lives (past or present) when it seems to have been buried in the past—or is seemingly just fine?    Out of sight, out of mind.

This analogy can relate to all types of challenges that ought to trigger thoughts in our minds of “I gotta fix that” or “That’s gonna catch up with me someday”.

Just like the renewal of the septic systems in our remodeled farm houses, the process of personal renewal can be divided into five parts.

  1. Challenges don’t have to be visible to be real.  Digging into stuff that needs fixing requires proactivity.  We ought not to just sit on our thrones, waiting for a backup before we take action.  If you wait thirty years, it may require a complete makeover.
  2. Nature compensates to needs, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way. I was amazed when I discovered the old tile piping from the house to the septic was totally disintegrated, and yet most of the sewage was finding its way because the earth which had formed around the pipe made its own pipe and the doo doo still found a way to the tank—-at least most of it.  While nature improvised to the best of its ability, the problem would never go away on its own.
  3. You can’t just make deposits. Even in banking, if folks just deposited money and the bank didn’t lend out the compensating balances, the bank would go out of business.  In the Bible there is a parable about the disposition of talents, and the reward didn’t work out so well for the guy who buried his treasure and didn’t try to do something with it.  In the case of my septic story, you can’t just make deposits forever and expect all is well.  At some point you need to evaluate your current state of affairs and see what is needed to grow the soul.  You have to make make room for more growth, deploy your talents and skills, take out the garbage if necessary, and create a space for faith and holistic growth.  Sometimes, as was the case in my story, I had to have a professional come and suck out the sludge and advise me on proper tank etiquette.   Most of our challenges and opportunities for growth require mentorship from those who have “been there, done that.”
  4. Don’t skip Important Steps. The plumber discovered in rebuilding the septic lines, that the lines previously had too much slope toward the tank.  The problem—and I would never have even considered this on my own, is that the water would outrun the solids.  Sometimes if we try to skip steps in our desired path and just plan for the arrival—the path becomes cluttered with unintended obstacles.  As we work on aspects of our lives that need improvement, we can make so many things better than they ever were before, especially if we take the steps necessary to do it right.
  5. Always Flush. In our daily devotionals and meditation, let’s always be on the watch for ways we can make our lives more holistic. Our mindfulness in this process will allow us to face whatever challenges and opportunities are before us and make the most of them.

In the end, each phase of these steps will allow our lives to become even more beautiful.

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