The roof leaks. The new car pulls to the left. The refrigerator needs repair. The dog ripped up some carpet. The guys who I hired to refinish my bathroom didn’t do what I asked them.
It’s just not right. It’s not perfect–they did the wrong thing, in the wrong way, in the wrong place.
The shop vac has a short; thought it was the switch–turns out it’s the plug.
How many trips to the hardware store?
The long-planned trip to Chicago for the weekend, sabotaged by the stomach flu.
Inconvenienced. Disappointed. Irritated. Frustrated. Sick. Plans shattered.
The roof leaks. The basement leaks. The sink leaks. The three day old dehumidifier leaks.
A friend announces on Facebook he’s getting divorced.
He says to the world, “the kids won’t suffer, because both their mom and dad love them.”
We tell ourselves lies that leak.
Friends are heartbroken and lonely. They feel forgotten, like damaged goods past their usefulness.
All is broken, and everything leaks.
Nothing ever satisfies. Nothing ever fulfills. No one ever understands us. No one ever loves us enough.
These inconveniences, these tragedies, these little deaths–why do they happen?
We sense we are made for happiness, but nothing ever sates us. Nothing ever is “just right.” Nothing ever works without complications. Everything is in a state of entropy.
The author of Ecclesiastes speaks truth:
All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.
If we live in a world that is this way, then why are we so unsatisfied? Why are we frustrated when things break, when we know we live in a world where everything decays? Why are we disappointed when everything leaks, when we live in a world where everything is always falling apart?
Why should we expect anything else, unless we know that there is something else we are made for?
The answer is because we aren’t made for this world. We’re strangers in a strange land, exiles.
Nothing ever satisfies us, but God alone. No one ever fully understands us, but the God who made us, the one who understands us better than we can ever know ourselves, the one who the Church Fathers said is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
When everything leaks, it helps me remember the source of my true happiness.
When everything leaks, I’m reminded of the woman at the well.
When everything leaks, I remember that I can only be satisfied by the Living Water, He who makes all things new.
When nothing is ever “just right,” when I see the pain of those around me, when nothing ever makes me fully content, it’s a reminder of where I belong, and to Whom I belong. It reminds me that it’s a foolish hope to hope that things will ever be fully fixed, just so long as we still live on this leaky, broken world.
Thank God this world is never “just right.” If it was, what man would know his need for the one who made Him, He who is Life and Love itself?
The saints help us remember that when all goes wrong, when all seems to go ill, when our hopes are dashes and our dreams shattered, we need to view these as little deaths, allowed by God to channel us more and more towards Him, like the banks of a river that flows to the sea.
When everything leaks, I remember my favorite quote of C. S. Lewis, one I have often quoted before:
If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.
When everything is leaking, the best thing to do is to try our best to fix the leak, and ask other people to help us–and to help them fix their leaks too.
And if you’re in a leaky boat, you should always have a cooler with you too.
The blue link above comes from Ecclesiastes, that heart-wrenching look at the futility mankind often feels enduring the daily existence of life: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” Solomon tells us.
There’s another verse I like very much:
Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart.
Breaking bread with friends with a bottle of wine or beer is proof that “this world’s not half bad.” Even if everything seems to be falling apart around us sometimes, we’re still here, we still have friends who love us, and we have wine to cheer our hearts, and food to sustain us.
But of course, there is more to that verse. We are invited to eat bread and drink wine, in happiness and with a cheerful heart: a foreshadow of the Mass.
The most fulfillment we will ever experience on earth is the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, the gift that is with us until the end of time. The Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Love Himself is what sustains us in this broken world.
There is joy in this leaky world, and it’s found in love. Love of God, love of neighbor, and love of ourselves, all which springs from the fountain of love, Love Himself.
I’ll end with a favorite poem of mine, which I first read in the book A Severe Mercy, inspired by the death of the author’s wife, mutual friends of the author of the poem:
If Everything Is Lost
If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October skye.
If all is lost, thanks be to God
For He is He, and I, I am only I.
- Dom Julian, OSB
A note about the photos: these are all photos I took in northern Michigan. The decrepit buildings are all in Calumet, MI. I’m intrigued by the decay of the city that once was almost the capitol of Michigan. I have family history there–my great grandfather worked as a timberman in the copper mines there. The last photo is a picture on Lake Michigan.