Digging in the ground is as natural to me as breathing. When I was a little boy, nothing made me happier than having a pile of dirt, a spade and hours to dig. If I could have a hose to fill up the lakes and rivers I dug - so much the better. I once had a garden that I killed by over watering. Three inches of water a day is really only good for rice.
I have spent full days setting small bareroot-orange trees in the ground and weeks digging fence posts. In the two houses I have owned, almost all the bushes and plants in my yards started with my own boot pushing a shovel point into the ground. Sometimes I see big Cat backhoes and think about the holes I could dig with those.
Our first home was on a cul-de-sac, which is a fancy French word for "dead end." I was tired of looking at the dirt and weeds that flourished there. Once, we had a sand pile in the circle that drew in the neighborhood children, but the children grew up, and the sand went away. I called the city a time or two to see if they would put something there, but it never happened. One Saturday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I made a trip to the nursery, bought the plants I thought would look good (and I could afford) and came home ready to dig. With great confidence, I grabbed my shovel, picked what I thought was a good spot in the center of the cul-de-sac and pushed.
Nothing happened. I mean nothing happened. The dirt gave not an inch, and the shovel blade began to bend under my weight. I tipped the shovel up a little and stood on it. The blade went in a quarter of an inch, and I flicked a feeble sliver of dirt out the intended hole. I tried softening the ground with water (an old trick). The water ran off. It seemed as though I had discovered a weird strand of impervious dirt. Then I remembered my post-hole diggers.
When I was 18, I once dug a quarter-mile's worth of post holes out of the soft Florida sand in a single morning. A few minutes after hurling my post-hole diggers against the compacted clay taught me I wasn't 18 anymore and this soil wasn't soft Florida sand. This was South Carolina clay, stubborn and unyielding as John Calhoun. Dirt came out of the hole grain by grain.
After an hour, five holes were ready to receive the plants. I dropped them in, covered the roots, and turned the water on. The freshly created blisters stung whenever I moved my hands. New fissures had opened up in my palms. It was hard work through hard soil.
In my soul and in yours, there is hard soil. It needs to be dug out, so God can put something beautiful there. But digging is not a passive process, because God respects His order of creation. He tells us we must resist temptation, do the hard work of submission and dig out the old patterns. We have to start digging.
We tire of working on our "stuff." Our sin is more comfortable than spiritual labor. But unless we are willing to get our faith blistered by work, we endure a barren patch of weedy dirt instead of the beauty God wants to plant in your life. There is something sacred in fighting the stubborn resistance in our selves.
Maybe you have to upgrade your tools. Your old shovel isn't making a dent in the compacted compartments of your life. Get out your post-hole diggers. Your post-hole diggers may be going to a 12-step group, or getting around people who are serious in their faith. You might need to see a counselor or talk to a pastor. Maybe for you, it means looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, "I have a problem." Admitting you have an issue, and you are the only one who can do anything about it, is the first tiny sliver of progress.
If you are follower of Jesus, the good news is God is ready to give you strength in your digging; He may even soften up the soil. He will help you create the spiritual space for the you he wants you to be.
Do you need to dig out space in your soul? Have you been afraid of the blisters? Dig. Sweat a little. Join God in making room for Him to do something new.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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