Lesson from a Shower Squeegee

Some time ago, I was cleaning the bathroom after a prolonged period of neglect.  Noticing that the shower glass was encrusted with hard water deposits, I brought the glass cleaner and did my best to clean it off.  After three spray and wipe cycles didn’t have any effect, I decided I needed a stronger cleaning agent.

I came back with some Comet cleaner and hot water thinking, “this will do the trick”.  Using a liberal amount of elbow grease for quite some time cleaned the cleaner areas, but the dirty areas had not improved much at all.  Because of the way the glass was bending as I sawed away at it with my sponge, I finally gave up.  “At the rate this is going, it is going to end with a broken shower stall and me in the hospital.”  I was frustrated because I wanted this to be a fresh start where I was going to live my life differently, but I installed the shower squeegee that I had purchased and decided to call it a day.

Some six weeks later, I went back into the bathroom to do some cleaning and noticed that the shower stall glass was remarkably clean.  The process had been so gradual that I hadn’t noticed it, but all of the hard water deposits were gone and I hadn’t done a thing except squeegee the glass after my daily shower.  I applied my knowledge of chemistry to determine what had happened and I think I now understand.

When you use the shower without the shower squeegee, the following process occurs:

  1. During the shower, hot water with dissolved calcium lands on the shower glass.
  2. Because the water is hot and not fully saturated with calcium, it dissolves some of the calcium deposits on the glass.
  3. Left on the shower glass long enough, the water evaporates and cools leaving it dissolved calcium on the glass.

When you shower with the squeegee, you wipe away the water after it absorbs calcium on the glass and before it evaporates away and the net effect is that you are cleaning the glass a little bit every day.  Now this may seem to be a trivial matter, but I believe this process exemplifies a profoundly important principle that could have changed my life enormously had I applied it consistently over the last twenty years.

The Importance of Daily Maintenance

So there I was using nasty chemicals and pushing so hard on the glass that I had to hold the other side to prevent it from breaking and I wasn’t getting anywhere.  The process of cleaning that I expected to be quick and easy was in fact extremely hard, possibly dangerous and accomplished only minimal results.  I gave up and just did a daily maintenance routine and within a few short weeks, the glass is as clean as can be without hardly any work required at all.  The principle this illustrates is that a simple daily regimen is vastly more effective than extremely drastic short term action.  To explain what I mean, allow me to give some examples of where this principle might be effective.

Weight Loss

I have, over the course of my life, lost hundreds of pounds on crash diets with extremely restrictive eating rules.  Eat 800 calories a day in protein shakes and after 6 months you have lost almost 100 pounds.  Eat no carbohydrates and after 6 months you have lost almost 100 pounds.  The problem with these diets is that as soon as you go off your strict regimen, you begin accumulating the weight again.  Your weight loss measures were unsustainable and once you have met a temporary goal, your eating patterns return to normal and your weight returns to where it started.  Not only that, but you have the occasional failure of willpower that results in a failed diet where all of the initial work is lost because you ate more when you were depressed after you failed.

Recently I have been applying this daily maintenance principle where I just try to eat reasonably day to day and do not worry about a strict regimen and I have seen great results.  (I have lost 40 pounds in the last 5 months.)  Four days a week, I am on “low calorie days” where I stay under 1500 calories.  The other 3 days are “normal” days where I try to stay under the calculated metabolic rate for one of my age, weight and activity level.

Because I am not starving myself and occasionally allow myself to eat something bad for me, the regimen is not that difficult and I have been able to stay on it fairly easily.  Because the weight loss is more gradual and the regimen isn’t unbearable, the lifestyle changes should last longer and allow me to keep the weight off once I am finished.  Just as the hard water deposits resisted drastic and quick reduction but were eliminated by a slow and gradual maintenance process, my weight problem should (I hope) yield far more effectively to a slow and gradual weight reduction than to sporadic drastic measures.

Healing Fractured Relationships

Recently I became aware that I had allowed my relationship with God to become distant.  As I am reading through various portions of the Scripture, I realize that the rebuke of Jesus to the church in Ephesus was appropriate for my situation.  “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”  (Revelation 2:4)  Anguished by the sins that necessitated the rebuke of the Lord, I wanted to do something spectacular to see instant healing and restoration.  Maybe a long fast or prayer session will do the trick?  Maybe if I gave more money?  What I am coming to realize is that healing and restoration will take time while I pursue the Lord on a daily basis as I should have been doing all along.  

A Spiritual Lesson

As I review my struggle with weight in the light of this principle of daily maintenance, I realize that the primary issue is one of spiritual surrender.  If God wouldn’t give me the professional or interpersonal success that I wanted, I would soothe the pain of those failures by increasing the pleasures that were under my ready control.  When I went through a crash diet, I was  recognizing that using food in this way was unsustainable, but at the same time attempting to maintain control of my life by losing weight as fast as I could so I could get back to life as usual.  The ultimate solution, I believe now, is to learn how to die to myself and be thankful in all things.  If I can learn to be grateful for everything God has done for me, then I will not need to use food as a compensation.  If I use food in a responsible way on a daily basis, then this could have long term benefits on my professional life and in my interpersonal relationships.  Using the shower squeegee everyday cleans and maintains the shower where more drastic measures fail.

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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