Dig Dig Dig
Several months ago I took a two-night getaway to a Mennonite retreat center in rural Michigan. This has become a spiritual practice for me— getting away for a day or two every six months to spend time alone in the presence of God.
On this retreat, I met with a spiritual director and she asked me why I had come. I told her I wasn’t quite sure, only that I wanted to hear from God.
She asked me how I thought I might spend my time on this retreat, and I told her this one felt different than past retreats. Before, I had zero agenda and felt like God was telling me to just be— to learn to be without doing, to rest in the peace of his presence.
But on this retreat? I felt like he was telling me to write. Nothing in particular. Just write.
“So,” she said, “then your work is to mine the words.”
Mine the words.
All I could think of at the time was a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The dwarfs are in a mine, working their little butts off to dig out diamonds. Their pickaxes clink, gemstones sparkle, and they sing:
There’s a stanza towards the middle of that song that sings:
We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies sometimes more
We don’t know what we dig them for…
And yet they dig dig dig dig, and keep digging all the more.
I’ve thought about what the spiritual director said, that writing is like mining, and I like it.
It takes the pressure off producing something valuable from the very beginning. We write and we mine.
The rubies. The gold. The diamonds. Those are the things that come as a result of hard, consistent work.
I looked up the definition of mine and several things came up. A few of them stood out to me :
To extract from a source
To burrow beneath the surface of
To seek valuable material
To dig away or remove the foundations of
I write because I need to burrow beneath the surface. I need to extract the things that God is doing in me and uncover the valuable material that I often forget is there. My soul— that’s the thing I’m working so hard to uncover, constantly throwing off the things that hinder and trusting to God to do the rest.
I dig so I can have life.
I dig so I can shine.
I dig so God’s work may become evident in me, so that you may have the courage to dig and see the evidence of his work in you.
I couldn’t sleep this morning so I got up and started writing. Nothing in particular, just stream of conscious writing that eventually led me here.
An image came to mind as I wrote: shards of glass lying broken on a the sidewalk. I saw myself walking past the shards of glass, ignoring them, wishing they weren’t there and hoping someone else might come and clean them up.
Eventually I looked down at the glass and discovered it was actually a broken mirror. I carefully picked a couple of them up, my face reflecting back to me in the fractured, jagged pieces.
“Hey!” I felt a whisper inside my soul. “Look over here! There’s some things you’ve been ignoring.”
I read a book several years ago (10 years to be exact) by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. The book was titled Changes That Heal, and boy did it ever heal. But first, it had to ruffle a few things up.
Section three of the book was all about a little thing called boundaries. I’m sure you’ve heard of them before. Boundaries are the things that keep us safe and sane. They tell us what we’re responsible for and what we’re not. They give us wisdom and edges. Boundaries are a good thing. We are not responsible for other people’s emotions and they are not responsible for yours.
The concept of boundaries has been popping up around me again for the last year or so. A friend even let me borrow a whole book by Dr. Cloud called Boundaries. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf since last summer. I haven’t even bothered to open it.
But here’s the problem… ignoring a problem, neglecting a nudge, only causes the problem to get bigger. It gets louder and starts affecting way more people than just you.
At least that’s the way it’s been for me. My lack of boundaries has caused conflict with my husband because I’ve been expecting him to feel things for me, to fix things for me, to be mad or sad or upset because I’m mad or sad or upset. My lack of boundaries has caused conflict with friends because I’ve blamed things on them that wasn’t theirs to own. It’s caused indecision, caused me to be devalued, and it’s kept me from writing more because I’m too concerned with what other people will think or how they might be offended.
My monthly email newsletter went out on this morning. It was filled with answered prayer stories and joyous praises, rave reviews about how great my husband is and gratitude for the new job I have.
But even in the good season, there’s still work to be done. There’s still digging that I need to do to understand why this struggle with boundaries has surfaced yet again.
I’m telling you this because it can be scary to air out your dirt. Even as I write I feel the waves of shame slapping against the surface of my soul. Don’t tell them what’s really going on, they say. You need to remind them that God is good. They’ll think less of you if you tell them what’s going on. No one else is struggling with boundaries in the same way you are. Get it together.
But my brokenness is the very thing that makes the God I serve good. He takes me in my pain and my shame and says, “It’s okay. I even love these parts of you so you should love them too.”
I don’t know why I’m struggling so much with boundaries right now. I tap the question and the answer feels tender. I’m feeling a bit grateful that this tender spot has surfaced in a season when so many other things feel bright.
God is gentle like that, you know. When there’s healing that needs to occur, he treats it as just that — healing — not some awful sin pattern that you need to fight real hard to overcome. He may just ask you to do a little bit digging; but when you’re just too tired to dig anymore, be brave enough to surrender and leave the rest of the digging to him.