Tales of a Shovel Master

August 13th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 1: 7 (NLT)

 7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
      but fools despise wisdom and discipline.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Last May, Laura and I embarked upon one of the greatest experiences of our life together when we journeyed to Cochabamba, Bolivia with a missions team to construct a playground for the Bolivian Hope Center’s children’s home.  The travel time was a grueling twenty-eight hours, with long layovers and middle of the night flights.  But we eventually landed, showered, and prepared ourselves for the work ahead.

I excel at only a few things in life.  Weedeating.  Football watching.  Painting.  And . . .  well, digging.  I suppose that I first discovered my proficiency at digging when I spent almost two years constructing our church facility.  During that time, I dug more holes (filled them back in . . . redug them . . . and filled them back in again) than I can humanly recall.  I use a shovel as other great artisans use canvas or clay. And I pride myself in my humility.

Hence, the task of digging the holes to pour the foundational posts for the playground began and I found myself at the helm of another shovel.  As the subtle point of the rounded edge first broke through the top layer of the Bolivian dirt, I had hope.  But the second jab at the dirt crushed the prospects of an easy project.  Clang!  Yep, I hit rock.  Hard rock.

And it wasn’t just one rock.  We spent the next two days digging up rock after rock after rock.  In one place, we actually hit a concrete footer from a pre-existing structure.  Several of the local workers spent hour upon hour chipping away at it with sledgehammers and chisels.  

Thus, we dug as if our lives depended on it.  A few feet down, we began to unearth more than just rocks.  Soon, huge sheets of plastic, rolls of knotted chicken wire, piles of discarded bricks, and huge blocks of wood began creating challenges for our shovels and our backs.  At one point, our little digging expedition team encountered a strange, green, slimy substance underground that we were never able to identify.  What we did figure out, though, was that we were digging in a land fill– in a place where someone else had buried their garbage and excess construction supplies many years before.

At one point, I was tempted to quit– especially when we hit a root system underground that took about six hours to dig up and cut through.  I just wanted to say, “Come on, guys!  This has to be deep enough!”

But it wasn’t deep enough just yet.  That’s the crucial importance of foundations.  They must be deep, level, and solid.  Though I was exhausted and blistered from the excavation, the alternative would have been unthinkable.  We could have just quit early without going deep enough and to the onlooker, the playground would have looked no different.  It would have been pristine on the outside, but completely unsafe for children to play on.  All because the foundation would have been unsteady . . . unsolid.

Proverbs 1:7 again leads us closer to the path of wisdom with the first directive that we should implement: a foundation.  What is the consistency of this foundation?  “The fear of the Lord.”  At first glance, this phrase seems to contradict everything in our modern Christian culture that leads us to believe that God is our loving Friend and that we should approach Him in relationship.  If that is true, why would the Bible say that we should “fear” Him?  I’m not usually afraid of the people I love.

To understand the “fear of the Lord” versus other types of fear, I point back to the playground in Bolivia. What Proverbs is saying to us is that we can’t gain wisdom without the proper foundation– a foundation that isn’t easy to dig.  Like that landfill, we must dig through the garbage that has been discarded into the soil of our hearts over the years.  Bitterness.  Rebellion.  Unforgiveness.  This rubbish, if left undisturbed underground and built on top of, can create disastrous results for everything we will build. From the start, our foundation must be deep and solid or else we’re sabotaging every spiritual structure in our lives.

So, that brings us back to this fear issue.  Should we be afraid of God?  Well, if we choose to build our lives upon any other foundation that His grace, then I say yes.  Not because God desires to destroy us, but simply because it’s only a matter of time before our little playground will come crashing down.  At the heart of it, the fear of the Lord is a (brace yourself for a long definition) reverent, healthy, respectful, relational, submissive love for God.  It means that we wholeheartedly grab our shovels and get straight to digging because God has promised us a strong foundation.  It means that we are literally afraid to build life in our own way– we want God’s method of construction to win out, not our own.

This foundation— this humble submission to the will of God– is the only starting point for those who desire to gain wisdom.  All things built on other foundations will end in piles of rubble.  So, though it may seem as unpleasurable as my lengthy days of digging, it is foolish to “despise wisdom and discipline.”  Sometimes, you just have to keep digging.  Hey, your foundation is at stake.

On a side note, the joy of watching three-hundred children swarm that playground (most of them playing on a playground for the first time in their lives) and having no doubts about the safety of their playland was a life-changing moment.

When you keep digging, it’ll be life-changing for you too.  I promise.


~ by johndriver on August 13, 2008.

4 Responses to “Tales of a Shovel Master”

  1. this kinda goes away from what you are talking about,, but it this got to me. you mentioned how much you wanted to quit digging. i compare myself and struggles to all that work you guys did and all of the other really hard times people go through and realiize i have no reason to quit. even though school just started ive already been overwhelmed and not even thought about spending much time with God. ive been on the computer every day doing research and there is no reason for me not to read these blogs except for the fact that im too “tired.” there is always time for God i just have to make myself available!

  2. i dont know if this is what you were going for but this is what i got. You got to dig out the bad to get to good. Cause underneath the bad is good. To me the bad is all the bad stuff is the stuff that got all of us here. The good is God you got to go throught the bad to get to the good but you may still find bad but you just got to dig it up and move on. Cause we you are done the end result to us is is heaven.

  3. This daily thread was very easy to relate to! God, please help me to be more submissive to you. Help me to desire what you have for me, and to use that towards my foundation. I want a stable foundation so if I have things that are not good to build on, please reveal those to me. The better the foundation, the more room there is for more knowledge. 🙂

  4. Confession time… I have not read a Daily Thread in quite a while, but in Overdrive tonight PJ challeged us to read and respond. So I came home and decided reading one was long overdue.
    I totally “got” every bit of this. My thoughts may stray a little bit from yours, but still, this spoke to me. What you were taking about with the garbage you kept finding reminded me of my life. I have all this junk from “previous construction projects” just laying around, and before God starts to work in me, I have to dig past of all the mess. God can alwyas work in us, we just have to give Him our lives as a foundation.
    Great Word PJ!

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