A Shovel-less Life

 May we look up instead of down. May we see others and not only ourselves. May we remember the deep holes of despair we have been rescued from!


I scrape my hands on the splintery shovel. So this is life, I think angrily. I throw it down and I scream at the sky. If I wasn’t so mad, I’d scream at God. Bitter tears fall unbidden. I pick up the hated shovel and–

I dig. I dig.

I search for happiness

for hope

for joy.

And I come up empty

every time.

Hitting more earth, pulling at the weeds to wrap up my arms. But my arms don’t reach my heart and there is no joy here. I can’t give up now, not yet, not here. I must be close. I must be near. The weeds wrap tight around my arms, cutting off circulation.

I thrust the shovel into earth. Today, perhaps I’ll find it. Today, it could be mine.

I dig. I dig.

I search for happiness

for hope

for joy.

And I come up empty

every time.

The guttural screams are pulled out by my anger. My tired body is farther in the ground, my clothes barely whole, my fingers cracked and bleeding, my whole life shoved deep into something I dug for myself. And it is miserable.

When I have strength enough to stand, I pull myself up to see past the earth and I watch as people—hundreds of people–navigate the world without a shovel, without a broken body, without any burdens at all.

They are whole. They are happy. They are hopeful.

But I—

I dig. I dig.

I search for happiness

for hope

for joy.

And I come up empty

every time.

I grab at their ankles and I hope that they look at me. But this is not enough!

None of them see me or care to look my way. I grab at them, I scream my terror. I know I’m not so far under that they cannot hear me. Their unburdened faces, their shovel-less hands, their able bodies keep walking on by.

They do not want to look at me…and I’m getting tired of crying for help. But I try again anyway. But this voice, my voice, the only small part of me not touched by broken earth becomes raspy, unable, tiny, inaudible. I’m stuck deep in this hole. Will I be here forever? I’ve given up. All hope is lost. Joy cannot be found here. And the free people just keep walking on.

They are shovel-less.

I am helpless.

They are burden-less.

I am lifeless.

I fall deep down into the hole. My fingers are the only part of me that can be seen by any passerby. This hole is my sorrow. This shovel is my emptiness. These weeds are my chains. This pile of dirt has become the whole definition of my life.

A year goes by and I’m still hanging on. I’ve no more hope to lose. My fingers are numb. I can’t feel. I don’t want to feel.

But slowly, gently, in a manner I have never known…I feel these fingers—my fingers–being held. The grasp is tight. It fills with promise. While strong, all I can feel is love. I inch my body closer to the surface and I let her pull me out.

I look dark as night next to her. She is a reflection of Son—light immovable, full of hope. I see my fingers and they are not as ripped apart as I’d imagined. She helps me stand and shows me the WAY.

The hole is no longer sorrow, but redemption. The shovel is no longer empty, it is gone away with hope. The weeds have disappeared and new life has clothed my body. The pile of dirt now a story of grace. I am rescued.

I am free and I weep.

I weep for joy!

I ask the woman who showed me the WAY why none of the other free people ever cared to see me when I called out for help. I ask her why they didn’t want to spread hope like fire to all the holes of despair. I am not angry at them, but I want to know why. How can this miraculous grace be kept so quiet?

And she replies, “Look again”.

And so I look across the expanse of earth and I see what holds them back….

pedestals of self-righteousness

blinders of bitterness

mediocrity like wildfire

distractions of jealously

preoccupations with petty shovels of empty happiness

downward stares of selfishness.

And then she says so quietly, “I am often just like them, you see. I am obsessed with myself. I am blinded by my own needs. I am too concerned with my own desires to die to myself every day. I forget the sharp, hopeful way that grace has in a broken heart. I am tattered and torn in the depths of my being, and I only saw your broken fingers, because I again let go of the pride and self-righteousness.

I saw myself in reality–beggar without Grace, lost without Hope, empty without Love, orphaned without Christ.

She finishes through her transparency and then she walks away. She does not go far, before she bends for the vain and splintery shovel. The shovel that promises empty happiness. I see her hesitate. But then in determination, she forsakes it!

I follow behind her, and we barely walk half a mile before the earth is littered with deep holes again.  She stops by the closest hole, and sunk deep into the earht I can see small, hopeless fingers just barely holding on.

Then she knelt down–

And she held them.


Previous Posts:

Dear Broken Woman

An Open Letter to Good Kids

I Got Married & Gave Up These


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