Hi. I’m Ken Jones and this is A Classic State of Mind, with a word about: Pools.

My friends, the Oppermans had a party last week, celebrating fifty years of marriage. I saw some pictures of their party that they posted on-line. And when I saw those pictures … I smiled. You see, the party started on their front lawn. But before too much time had passed, the party had moved to the back of their house.

And that’s what made me smile. In the back of their house, they have a giant swimming pool.

I’ve known a lot of people who have had swimming pools built in their backyards. When you decide you want a pool, you call a swimming pool contractor. You have him look at your backyard. Talk about the schedule. When to begin. When to end. Discuss how much it will cost. Lots of measuring and sketching on paper.

After the contractor has gathered all the necessary information, he draws up the plans and gets to work with his crew. Brings in some excavation equipment and trucks to haul away dirt. Digs a huge hole in the ground. Pours the concrete. And finally, after a few weeks of work, they’re done. They fill that pool with water. That’s the way you build a pool.

Well, . . . that may be the way you would build a pool, but it certainly is not the way Jerry Opperman built his pool.

You see, Jerry is an ironworker by profession. Building a pool didn’t look that complicated, so he designed his own pool. He sketched out an odd-shaped, non-symmetrical one-of-a-kind pool, I guess you could say. He walked off the measurements in his backyard and drove stakes in the ground to outline their pool.

After a few more weeks of planning and preparation, he began. One afternoon after he got home from work, Jerry went to his garage, grabbed a shovel and that old wheelbarrow he’d had since he was a kid. He pushed that wheelbarrow around to the backyard, spat on his hands, rubbed them together, and started to dig. He filled that wheelbarrow with dirt, pushed it over to his property’s edge, and dumped it. Nothin’ to it. He went back for another load. Three or four times he went back. Then he put the old wheelbarrow away, went into the house, and relaxed for the rest of the evening. The next night when he got home from work, he did the same thing. Filled and emptied the wheelbarrow four or five times . . . then quit. Day in and day out. A lot of dirt. Jerry would have to shovel over eight-hundred cubic yards of dirt, one wheelbarrow load at a time. He’d planned a pool forty-feet long; a pool seventeen-feet wide at the shallow end, and twenty-two feet wide at the deep end—the fifteen feet deep end.

Some people thought that, because Jerry worked on his pool for such a long time, he’d never get it finished. Well, it had been a while—a long while. Jerry worked on that hole-in-the-ground for fourteen years. I’m not kidding. He had fourteen years worth of stories about that bottomless pit. A lot of memories, and a lot of struggles. Times when the dirt caved in after a rain, and he had to shovel dirt for weeks just to get back to where he was before it all fell in. Incredible. One man moving all that dirt—with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

Well, last week at Jerry and Kathy Opperman’s house, a bunch of friends got together to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and before they were finished, they had gathered around that storied pool. A swimming pool that took fourteen years to build, a hand-dug, personally designed, poured-in-concrete swimming pool. Formidable. Deep. Significant.

I can’t help but notice the similarity between Jerry’s swimming pool and my own life. So much of life’s unfolding happens, you might say one wheelbarrow load at a time. When the Lord Jesus drew up the detailed plans for my life, He committed to letting that plan slowly take shape with the passing of every new day. I’ve noticed. God never hurries His plan. He is committed to creating deep and lasting pools of learning in my life … and as much as I’d like to hurry that process, He lovingly insists on doing it His way: One patient shovel full at a time.

“He who has begun a good work in you

will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

(Phil 1:6)

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