On the surface life is going well for us. We live in an interesting city in a cool high rise apt. overlooking the marina and the ocean. We have family in town. My husband is starting a new business. My son is getting into his new school. We’ve found a church. I’m starting to make connections. If anyone asks us, we’re “fine”. But underneath we’re not so fine. Lonely. Anxious. Fearful. Missing the comfort of knowing how things work, how to get stuff done, where to go, who to turn to. If anything bad happened right now I don’t know where the hospital is, what to do in an accident, or Dubai’s version of 911. I don’t have a driver’s license. And don’t know how to get anywhere anyway even if I did. I don’t have cash – or know how to access to money here.
I just don’t know anything. And that’s stinks.
A few days ago I noticed a bit of water around the floor of the bathtub. “Somebody just splashed a bit too much in the shower”, I thought.
A few hours later, I thought the grout lines on the bathroom floor appeared darker. “Maybe the person who cleaned the bathroom last used some cleaner that stained the grout”, I postulated.
The next day, did I see a thin line of water around the base of the walls? Yes. I did. “Must be the way water drains here.” I’m new. I expect things to be different. Maybe this is 1 of those things.
But these were signs that something was wrong. Weren’t they? Though I searched for a leak, there was nothing to be seen. But still...there were those unnerving signs of a problem. Was I making it up? Maybe it was just shower sloppage. I tried not to worry about it. But I couldn't shake off that uncomfortable feeling.
I got up in the middle of the night for the usual reason. The bathroom floor felt a bit damp. And the smell. It was reminiscent of an Indian train station w.c. (Not the kind of trip down memory lane I care for at 2a.m.) “Well”, I thought, “Maybe it’s just in need of a good cleaning. I’ll take care of that in the morning.”
In the morning, there it was. A puddle around the bidet. And not nice, fresh, clear water, either! (Yep. We’ve got a bidet. We don’t use it. It looks fancy. But it’s irrelevant. There are a lot of things like that here.)
I mopped up the water, just to make sure. Yep. There was a leak. Somewhere. I still couldn’t’ find it. But I saw the signs. So I took everything out of the bathroom while my husband called the building maintenance guy.
After a while the guy came out. “I found the leak”, he said. He’d patched it with silicon and assured us it’d be fine now. Of course they left the stinky water for me to clean up! So clean it I did, with disinfectant and a rag mop. 5 minutes later there was an even bigger puddle and trickles of water streaming across the bathroom floor.
The problem was not fixed. And the patch didn’t work. Now we have to wait for 2 days for the plumber to return from his days off. So I’ve left the icky mop in the bucket and closed the door while we wait for help.
It stinks in there of dirty water and disinfectant. An invisible but real leak and my efforts to clean it up. But it needs more expert help than I can give. So I’m waiting for someone who knows how to do stuff to come fix it.
It’s a parable of my life right now.
I heard Ray Aldred, a Canadian pastor and a member of the Cree people, speak at a conference in 2003. He taught with authority and great wisdom about the redemptive impact of living in a cross-cultural environment. He affirmed what I've learned from my own past experience and what I've said to others. We might go overseas for some great cause or for the sake of serving others. But the biggest transformation happens in those who move outside their comfort zone and into the unknown.
You can hear or see Ray's message at
Close your eyes and take a whiff.
Do you smell something in your life or circumstances that makes you feel uncomfortable? Is it a sign of a problem? If you can't tell, maybe you need the eyes of someone else (a trusted friend, a coworker, a counsellor, a pastor) to help you assess it.
Don't close the door on signs of leakage in your life. Let your feelings of anxiety, discomfort and fear motivate you to find the problem and get the help you need to fix it. It's an opportunity for transformation.