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Don’t Swim in a Green Pool

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV)

Do you remember the green pool? During the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the normally clear water in the diving pool turned a brilliant grass green. Theories range from rain and lack of wind to the addition of hydrogen peroxide, but either way the color means there’s not enough chlorine to kill the bad stuff in the water. You don’t have to be a chemist or pool expert to know you don’t want to swim in that.

When we moved to Florida, our boys were ecstatic that our new house has its own back yard pool. Their excitement lessened a bit in October, when they realized how much the water cools off with a screen, shade, and fewer daylight hours. My excitement lessened when I realized I had to maintain the water all winter, even with no one swimming!

That said, I have really enjoyed learning all the chemistry behind pool maintenance. I test every Saturday to make sure we have the right amounts of free chlorine, chlorine stabilizer, and alkalinity (salt), as well as a pH just above neutral. We use chlorine tablets to gradually add chlorine to the water, keeping the levels stable, which is especially important when you’re going on vacation.

While the change in Rio appeared to happen overnight, it can also come on gradually, as I learned upon returning home to a green, murky pool after a week away. (Alas—or should I say, thankfully—it wasn’t quite as emerald green as the Rio pool.) While the chemistry in our pool was fine when we left, I failed to make sure there was still a tablet in the pump system, and with days of no chlorine, algae growth was inevitable.


I took a water sample to the pool store and came home with a prescription and a bunch of chemicals. We had to “shock” the pool with four gallons of chlorine, add two packets of clarifier and nearly a quart of acid, run the pump continuously, and clean the filter daily until the water cleared up. I’m happy to report that our pool is once again an inviting aqua color, but it involved a considerable amount of time and expense—much more than simply maintaining it would have cost.


The lesson practically writes itself. In fact, our culture has a plethora of pithy sayings with parallel meanings:

  1. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

  2. “Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you.”

  3. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

  4. “A stitch in time saves nine.”

But I had to think a bit about whether there was a spiritual lesson, too. I decided there was, and it’s this: if your spiritual pool is green, don’t keep swimming in it!


You’re never beyond God. Whether you drifted away from God slowly, even without noticing, or left him for a specific reason, there’s still a path for you to come back to him. It will probably take some time and attention, but you’ll begin making improvements right away as soon as you start “treatment.”

And if your spiritual life is in balance, remember to keep checking in.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 NIV
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