IVP - Strangely Dim - Pools, People and Other Works in Progress

October 2, 2003

Pools, People and Other Works in Progress

by Dave Zimmerman

A friend of mine called to tell me about an argument he had with his wife. He was refreshingly contrite, aware of his own failings that contributed to the conflict, but also aware of the problem he was trying to address. He became increasingly upset as he watched his character flaws frustrate an overdue discussion.

I was glad for the call; I had been fighting a losing battle with my above-ground pool. If you own one, you understand: you scrub its walls, scoop out the leaves that fall constantly from surrounding trees, pour in chemicals and filter out toxins, skim the floating dandelion fluffs and water bugs off the surface, and occasionally wonder what you would do with more square footage of lawn in your backyard. Meanwhile the pool continues to be uninhabitable (unless you are a water bug) until the moment when the water comes clear and the chemicals balance out. Congratulations: your pool is now usable for the next forty-five minutes. Hope the water’s warm.

Pools and people have this in common: the whole is affected by the presence of corruption. Chemically speaking, pool water is corrupted by decaying leaves, breeding algae and flaking skin cells. Theologically speaking, people are corrupted by a sinful nature.

Not every choice is foolish and not every act bad, but every aspect of our personhood must contend with the fact that linked to our nature, leeching our virtue, is the perpetual stain of original sin. We were created good but infected early, and we are continually frustrated by its intrusion into our noble pursuits. It affects how I write this article: Do I write out of sheer benevolence, the desire to share what I’ve learned with a needy audience? Or do I write out of arrogance, thinking I have something worth sharing with people who in reality are likely better than I? Do I write out of a need to prove something to my boss, my parents, my spouse, myself, my God? And what I write may have its good points, but do I even want to know its bad points?

I am an editor, and I respect the editorial task, which is not to say I enjoy it. An editor commits to scrubbing and scooping and skimming and priming and filtering the writer’s work for what is valuable. Of course, the editor is no less sinful than the writer, which I remind myself occasionally as I edit and more frequently as I write. But a second perspective has a different set of failings and foibles to contend with, and four semi-blind eyes are better than two.

People, like pools and manuscripts, are works in progress vulnerable to error and misjudgment. That being the case, people benefit from having at least one editor, one person committed to their success who will draw out their best and confront their worst. I crave editing like I crave dental work, but I need editing perhaps even more than a good drill in the mouth. So does everyone. My friend had the courage to submit his life to an editorial eye. May he have the clarity to filter my failings out of my perspective and bring the best out of his own life.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 2, 2003 1:27 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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