The Water Sprinkler Syndrome

by Clark Roush, Ph.D.

Imagine with me, if you will, one of those circular water sprinklers that pops up out the ground to water a yard. Have you ever noticed where most of the “dead” grass is in a lawn that utilizes these? It’s often the grass that circumferences the sprinkler unit! I find this both interesting and metaphorical. The sprinkler is working so hard to make sure the needs of the rest of the lawn are met, that the needs closest to it can be neglected. If you’re reading this and trying to make a connection between the title of this blog post, and the overall title of the blog – hang in there with me and see if I can’t tie the two together.

Most of us live lives that cause us to be very busy – and often that busyness is used to take care of important needs. Family, work, church, community, volunteer efforts, service projects – the list is practically endless and exhausting. That’s my point – it can be endless and exhausting. Even though most of the things that require our attention are good, it is much too easy to allow them to rob of us adequate time for reflection and solitude.

We can often be so busy “nourishing those around us,” that we neglect ourself – sometimes physically, sometimes mentally, sometimes emotionally, sometimes spiritually. I don’t think it’s intentional – we’re often just so busy doing other good things we neglect legitimate needs housed within our selves.

The scriptures speak of Jesus often “withdrawing from the people.” I believe he did this because he knew he needed to attend to himself and stay focused on what was most important. This is not selfish – it is healthy and necessary. Many of the great thinkers of the past have spent time “withdrawn.”  I am a firm believer that too much isolation is not a good thing, but I also believe that too much community is not a good thing either. As is often the case, we search for that sometimes elusive balance.

Time spent daily in reflection is an antidote to frenzy. It brings clarity, calmness, realignment, discipline, care, and sustenance.  It would be a shame to spend so much time attending to other things that we evade the salient parts of our own development.