Finding Rocks in our Ditches

According to Jesus, there is no authentic Christianity, discipleship or Christian ethics apart from doing the deeds he taught his followers to do – Glen Stassen

Life naturally provides those moments and occasions of unintentional contemplation, times when the foundations of life seem swept away and we are left with the need to see life from a different perspective. – Parker Palmer

Recently I had the chance to help with a project building a home in North Africa in a region that was struck by an earthquake a few years ago. Many in the host community lost their lives and the survivors are struggling to put the pieces back together as they put a new roof over their heads, hopefully a home that will better withstand a future quake. I volunteered with a non-profit that is rebuilding communities, house by house, making an impact on lives and families and helping the local economy by employing local tradesman for various aspects of the building projects.

It was our job to dig ditches for the foundation of a new home. Not a large home but one that makes sense for the region and fits the lifestyle of a small family. As we worked harder than I’ve worked for a long time, family members dug alongside us investing sweat equity and pride in the building of their own home. They also provided food and wonderful, sweet mint tea during breaks. The weather was intense for a guy from the Northwest and the topography did not easily yield to our intentions to dig ditches. But we made headway. A particular feature that slowed our work were the veins of rock that decided to hide themselves under the veneer of normal dirt where we drew our lines for a hole or trench. The rocks probably saw us coming and wagered on which of these white guys could break them down. Ha.

I pounded on one such rock for the better part of 30 minutes one morning. After me, another guy on our team spent yet more time on the same stone. Thought I had loosened it for him. Apparently not. One of the local workers finally came to our rescue. He got into the same hole we were in for 45+ minutes with a pick. He taped in several places, found a weak spot, pried with the point of the pick, tapped a bit more. In less than 10 minutes he dislodged a huge rock to our shame and chagrin. But were we glad. We also knew who knew what they were doing right then.

I don’t want to over spiritualize this little story but the parallels are striking. Sometimes in my inner life I try to remove the rocks myself, with brute force of will or determination. These are good qualities for some tasks in my life but generally not the inner life. The best way to become conformed to the image of God is to yield, to trust the Holy Spirit to apply his gentle hand at the inner surgery that is sometimes needed in my heart. That is not a passive, static posture. I still need to get in the ditch to uncover the rocks and use the tools given by God. But ultimately it is a work of the Holy Spirit.

The guy who unearthed the rock at our project site has a nickname. They call him “rock whisper.” I kind of like that idea when I think of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

“The things that come out of a man are they that defile him, and to get out of them a man must go into himself, be a convict, and scrub the floor of his cell.” – George MacDonald

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  1. Andy,

    I always love your analogies and your affinity for pulling a life story out of every situation! Lord knows I need Him to do the work in me!

    RAMROD tomorrow… pray for me. It’s suppposed to be over a 100 degrees!


  2. Yes. I like the thought that this is a work of God we’re to become more and more a part of. Hopefully I’ll be more open to this myself in coming days.

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