“Come see the hole I’m digging!” Nikko burst through the back door while the pasta boiled and steamed on the stove.
“Yeah, I’m digging holes! It’s so much fun! I feel so accomplished.”
I broke from the task of making dinner and walked to our side-yard, a junky, unseen section of the property neglected these past thirteen years.
Indeed, he was digging holes! Just near the solitary pine tree, Nikko had excavated twin tunnels about two-feet wide and two-feet deep! A pile of rocks lay to the left and a pile of dirt to the right.
“Wow! You are digging holes! You weren’t kidding!”
“Yep,” his eyes flickered joyfully as he spoke, “And I’ve found these rocks. Aren’t they great? I’m going to wash them and study them. Some have mica in them, and I think this one is from a volcano.”
He picked up the dirt-covered stones and turned them in his hands, returned them to the pile and picked up the old shovel.
“I’m going to keep digging. I like to work. I like finding rocks that particularly amaze me.”
I smiled and remembered this same kid announced he wants to study moss because it’s fascinating. He knows more about spiders than anyone I’ve met and most often begins his sentences with, “Mom, did you know…?”
But this digging. This wasn’t an accruement of knowledge gleaned from books and YouTube videos. This was hard work for a boy of his size. He came in at dusk, worn out from this effort that he chose and declared to be fun. The treasure he sought was ordinary, commonplace, dirty. He could have picked up a dozen or so rocks from around the yard and saved himself a few hours of work. Instead he filled a box with rocks he’d mined out of the dirt of our backyard.
But there was pleasure in the sweat equity, in the physical investment of work.
King Solomon, when he was young and freshly crowned asked God for wisdom. Solomon became excessively wealthy and had a ridiculous number of wives and concubines and vineyards and storehouses by the time he was an old man. But in those days when he tottered under the weight of excess and the effects of age he stated that mankind’s purpose was to work hard and love God, keep on working, keep on loving, go to bed tired from a good day’s work.
I have seen what is best for people here on earth. They should eat and drink and enjoy their work, because the life God has given them on earth is short. God gives some people the ability to enjoy the wealth and property he gives them, as well as the ability to accept their state in life and enjoy their work. They do not worry about how short life is, because God keeps them busy with what they love to do. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
Last week, I had the blues. I was in a funk. I stayed away from the holes I dig and the rocks I mine: I didn’t write one word. I didn’t open my notebook computer, didn’t log into my website. It was Passion Week and I barely read my bible. I was, for some reason, a bit depressed. Maybe it was hormones. Maybe it was spiritual. I don’t know.
I finally confessed to my husband (on Good Friday, no less) that I wasn’t doing so well, that I was funky and depressed. I talked to him (again, poor guy) about my fears as a writer: I’m afraid to be noticed, afraid to be unnoticed, afraid to offend, afraid to be ineffective; I’m aware of the small circle of influence I have and afraid of what it might demand of me if the circle ever widened; I get worn-down by the redundancy of it all; I’m not getting paid, I’m not finishing my books for publication (my dream and biggest fear), I’m worried that I’m an amateur, a hobbyist, a delusional mediocre wanna-be… I, I, I, … Blah, blah, blah. And I ignored the words of Colossians that I memorized years ago:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Angelo might have said something brilliant and encouraging, or he might not. I don’t remember. I just know that I wore him down to the point of looking at me with glazed eyes. Tired out, and he asked, “What do you love about writing?”
“You don’t get it!” I retorted.
See, writers have a love/hate relationship with words, with the craft, the practice of expression, the tension between being deftly insightful and anonymously plebian. At that moment, I couldn’t think of one single thing I enjoyed about writing. I hated it, in fact, and therefore disliked my own self for pursuing it.
But I’m convinced that my role as a writer is to love God and love people through words and story, and that the process of writing helps me know God and make him known. My soul is framed in this paradigm and I’ve tried to walk away from it, but can’t. I think some refer to this as a calling.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)
Sometimes it feels like crazy.
This wasn’t my husband’s problem to fix. The guy has told me a million times that I need to write God’s story wherever I have opportunity. He is a prophet and I, the one who refuses to listen.
How much energy do we spend battling our doubts and disappointments rather than focusing our aim and finishing the race, the task of testifying the good news of God’s grace? Do we ignore that the enemy’s goal, as C.S. Lewis’ character, Wormwood, declared in The Screwtape Letters is this, “Do remember you are there to fuddle him”.
Oh, I was fuddled.
Have you been there, too? Muddled and fuddled and stuck in the puddling thoughts of your own making?
But on Easter Sunday, a friend I haven’t seen in months said, “I love reading your blog. I sometimes read post after post and say, ‘Yes! This right here! It’s “me” and this is so true!’” Another offered these words, “Please promise me you won’t ever stop writing. Your words tell my story too; perhaps we’re soul-sisters and that’s why they matter to me. I read and I share your bog posts. Keep writing.”
They didn’t know the darkness of my week, the foggy place where my mind wandered and my soul tired to the point of giving up, of planting petunias and cleaning bathrooms and folding clothes (all good things, but not my calling).
Because the digging, the mining for solid truths, rocks of beauty and weight upon which to build a story, are buried and elusive in the dirt.
I’d like to scoop small divots and plant petunias and ignore the work of digging. Planting petunias is immediately gratifying. People can see the petunias as they flutter their pink trumpets in spring breezes. Petunias are pretty. But Nikko’s pile of rocks and the holes beside them, well, they’re eyesores, really. Ugly brown soil, stripped and lifeless. A lot of work for not much reward.
And therein lies the lesson.
We washed a couple of stones and this morning examined them. The rocks told stories. One was small and lightweight, black and pockmarked. “This rock came from a volcano,” I whispered as we turned it over and touched it’s rough surface. “It was molten lava. This came from a place where the heat is so intense that it melted solid rock beneath the earth’s surface. The steam and the heat created so much pressure that it broke through miles of solid rock and the flow of melted rock burst forth and flowed red-hot. It eventually cooled, water and wind broke it into pieces and here we have this.”
A story in a stone, ancient and violent and unimaginable, lay within his palm.
“This one is a conglomerate rock. Somehow, over time and with a lot of pressure, a bunch of different minerals were smashed together to make one rock. You can see the flecks of mica; and there’s probably limestone or quartzite in there.” We looked at its cobbled, colorful form and compared it to the black lava rock.
Treasures indeed. Old and dirt-covered and common and at that moment, under this level of observation, important.
He may be a hobbyist hold-digger and I may be a hobbyist writer, but at that moment, this morning before the bus pulled onto our street, we were archeologist and author. We were Indiana Jones and Leo Tolstoy.
We were learning to understand that the value of the work, the sweat (and in my case, tears) and the time lends value to the common treasures unearthed.
The work we once loved might seem too hard, too mundane, too fruitless and we might want to walk away. I know I do. Is there a relationship that demands that you stop trying and kneel daily for healing, for direction, to kneel and wait and do the work that faith requires? Is there a new “hole to dig”? Have you reached a place where a change is necessary? Do you need to take up the shovel again and keep digging, like I do? When I first started this blog, I named it “Rocks.Roots.Wings.” for the metaphor that these represent in my life. Looking deep within the soil of our lives can be hard work.
If you are discouraged, like I have been, know that your calling, your just being here, matters so very much. We may have to mine deep for treasures, sometimes our daily lives seem to leave us empty handed, but we are not empty, we are not a futile experiment of an impersonal God. As you take up the tools of your trade (in my case, a computer!) take it up with a prayer, “God, your power is made perfect in my weakness. You began the work in me, I know you’ll be faithful to complete it.”
And then, keep digging. There’s treasure, treasure indeed.
linked with Jennifer for #TellHisStory. Check out her new book, Love Idol and learn of how God declared you Pre-Approved.