Broken Shovels

When we were new to the area, our neighbor asked if we had any use for some dirt. Hating to pass on a freebie, I looked across our sloping backyard and remembered my husband mentioning some low spots that needed filling. I told our new neighbor that we could use the dirt and asked him to put it in a pile on the driveway.

At that time, my growing boys had lots of energy. There were times when I knew they just needed to do something physical, like chopping wood or mucking hay, but we didn’t live on a farm or have a need for firewood. I decided that shoveling dirt would be a great energy-releasing activity. I showed the boys the dirt pile and explained what I wanted done when the appropriate time came. I also let them know that playing in the dirt was not allowed.

Fast forward a few weeks. My boys were being wild and restless, so I tell them to each grab a shovel from the garage and head to the dirt pile. They knew what to do. About 5 minutes later, the youngest comes in with a broken shovel. It was an older shovel we had picked up at a yard sale, so I figured it’s time had come. I told him to take turns with his brother and sent him back outside. He mentioned that they were having a hard time at this task, but I just figured they didn’t really want to work that hard.

After 5 more minutes of peace, in comes my other son. He tells me another shovel is broken. I am thinking, “What is up with broken shovels?” I told him, “Let me come out and show you how this is done.”

I take the remaining unbroken shovel in my hands and give my heartiest dig into the pile. The force of my dig knocked me backwards onto my, well yeah, that. This was no ordinary “dirt”. It was rock-solid, hardened clay that broke shovels in two!

The first thing I did was to apologize to my sons. I had really asked them to do an impossible task, plus I had assumed that they were the problem. I hadn’t taken the time to assess the situation clearly and there were some unknowns I hadn’t been prepared for.

I don’t know about you, but at times, that’s how I feel in life. That there’s an impossible task God has put before me, and my first inclination is to assume others are the problem.  I don’t take the time to clearly discern the situation. I am afraid of the unknowns in His plans for me.  So, I just start tackling that problem with all my might, only to be knocked off my feet. The force of my self-centeredness comes slamming back at me.

That’s when God gently picks me up, wipes me off, and points to a beautiful pile of black dirt that is soft and easy to manage. He even tells me it is okay to play in it. Amazingly, I sometimes still choose to pick up the broken shovels and head back to that hard pile of clay! He just smiles, shakes His head, and waits for me.


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