This week my husband was doing a landscaping project in our yard and he hit a gas line. We had made the call, gotten the property marked, followed all the right steps. But in the end, with weather and kids conspiring against him, all the right steps were not enough. The results were smelly, and worse, dangerous. When it happened, all we could think about was how horrible it was. But the more I thought about it, the more natural it seemed.
Any time you want to build something new above ground, you first need to dig below ground. And when you dig below ground, you run into obstacles. You run into hazards. There are people who will tell you that there is a “right” way to proceed, but you just can’t predict what’s down there.
As a culture, we value impressive structures. We value the visible, above ground stuff. We admire people who are accomplishing big, impressive things with their lives. But we don’t value the emotional work that it takes to get to that point. We don’t want to acknowledge that those people had to dig. They had to dig within themselves, and uncover all the hidden obstacles that could cause instability later on. They had to prepare a smooth, level spiritual foundation. This can be agonizing work, and it’s almost always invisible to people admiring the finished product.
There is a “right” way to go about this work. There are people who can help and guidelines to follow, but in the end, there are still unknowns. When you dig deep, you will encounter things things that, at the very least, smell bad. At worst they can be explosive and dangerous. There are things buried in all of us that are so painful, they could derail the whole project if they aren’t handled properly. (By the way, there are also treasures to be discovered. Ask any kid. If I dig a hole of any size, at least one of my children will come running and exclaim their excitement over a rock, a shard of pottery, a rare insect. They know how to recognize treasure when they see it).
This digging is sacred work. If you want to picnic or even camp, you wouldn’t have to dig. But if you want to build, you have to venture into the dark . You have to face what has been hidden. If you are in the digging phase right now, chances are your efforts are not being affirmed. Chance are you aren’t understood. But you are doing the most important work of your life. If you know someone who has uncovered something unpleasant, they are in a vulnerable place. Your judgment will delay their progress. You can acknowledge that God is at work, rather than commenting on the stench.
Where is God leading you to dig into your inner life? How have you dealt with the obstacles that you’ve exposed? How can you support people in your life who need to do some digging?