BY: LAURA GREENWOOD
Digging. Always digging. She hadn’t realized that she had been doing this all her life. It was just what was done. The motion never ended, because it had never really begun; it just was. A heavy heave, and then a sudden resistance. The tension of her muscles as they push to their breaking point. The weak ground slowly breaking. The delicious upward pull of the soil from the floor. The delighted sigh of relief as she exults in her hard-won work. The soil sparkles darkly on the rusted blade of the shovel as she reviews her handiwork. A sigh escapes her lips as she acknowledges this valued victory. She heaves the dirt aside; she has many more shovelfuls to go before she reaches the gleaming prize. Time drags on: one day, two. Numbers ripple past. Her strength ebbs and her body heaves with exhaustion, but nonetheless she shovels on. Treasure, value, glory are to be found below the surface. “Just one more clump of dirt,” a constant chant, stands between her and her victory. She sinks, slowly but surely, down into the depths of the earth. Her shovel rises and falls with each new day. Thunk, heave, pull, examine, and toss. On and on.
Everyone knew the story. Treasure, riches, and glory were buried deep beneath the earth. You only had to dig to make them yours. So simple that anyone could do it. There were always stories circulating around that someone had struck it rich; that their inner cravings had been appeased through their hard work. Every so often, she might come upon a coin or shiny object promising that greater things could only be a few more shovelfuls away. Weariness was silenced and denied, because a new found fervor and sense of certainty spurred her on evermore.
Digging: it was what was done.
The piles, over time, started building up, threatening to fall into people’s ever deepening holes. Sometimes they did fall. When that happened, they either gave up and started a new hole elsewhere, or started digging again harder than ever. But everyone dug their hole. Sometimes people gave up and just sat in their holes, but eventually they all started digging again. The holes got deeper and deeper. The light was soon blocked from their faces.
Some dug for their families, some for themselves. But everyone was digging for something. Their hearts, slowly but surely, sunk into the earth as they delved below the surface. Their fate, one and all, was to slowly dig until their bodies failed and their shovels fell from life-spent hands. Then the hole became their grave as the dirt fell down upon their still and silent bodies.
One day a note, as soft as a whisper, fell into her hole. She couldn’t make out what it said, but it was written upon the finest paper she had ever seen. Creamy white, of indulgent thickness. As she rubbed it with her calloused hands she delighted in its smooth touch.
Days went on, more notes appeared. Slowly, she was able to make out more and more of what they said. The words were extravagant and bountiful in promise. Nonetheless, her shovel continued to rise and fall in a deadening rhythm.
A day came that dawned as routine as the rest. As she was shoveling, her back sore from the hard labor at which she pressed herself, she felt a change in the atmosphere, as if something from a completely different world had entered hers. There was a whisper that could not be made out. Slowly it became louder and clearer, until it reverberated within her skull. “Beloved, I have opened a door which no one may shut. Come away with me to my palace and abide there with me.” “Who are you?” she asked. “What do you want with me?” There was a moment of silence, then the voice replied, “I am who I am. I am the King. I am here to redeem you, for I have already paid the price to set you free from your toil.”
Following the voice, there was a proffered hand. She hesitated – the hand was rough, scarred, and even had a huge hole in the center. She wondered if he was really able to save her from her deep pit. If he was really a King. Nevertheless, she was done with digging. She grasped the hand, and was pulled out of the pit.
She only got a glimpse of the man’s figure, for she was soon nearly blinded from the light of day surrounding her. She had been in darkness so long, that this glorious light burned as much as it caused delight. With her eyes closed she could sense that she was being carried, far away from the place that she had called home.
She awoke in an exquisite chamber. There was a note by her bedside. It was of the same wondrous paper that had been falling in her hole.
The note reminded her that she was no longer a slave to digging, because she was now provided for. She had a glorious inheritance, for she had been given a new name; she had been adopted into the family of the King.
She delighted in her new found estate. It was glorious and luxurious, but in a way inherently different from the treasure for which she had been digging. For it was not the wealth and coin of her own country, but of an entirely new one. It was wealth and delight in the King and his kingdom.
She also had a new calling: to go back to those still digging and deliver notes of hope from the King. Daily she would venture forth to the pits and carry notes to those below. However, this was a perilous journey. She was constantly bombarded by insults and hardships. But ever more frightening – the urge to dig once more constantly assaulted her heart. Sometimes, she would look down and notice a shovel once more in her hands. At those moments she trembled, wondering if she had ever really stopped digging, and if the King had been but a beautiful dream.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to be afraid, for, taking note of her wavering heart, the King came by her side and, as she sobbed, whispered to her, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 When she finally opened her hands, he gently, but firmly, took the shovel from her, picked her up in his arms, and carried her home, rejoicing as he went.
His tender love cast out all of her fear, for he was the King, the ruler of all. He determined true wealth and value. He gave value to her life. For he was worthy of all of it.