“Your Daddy digs ditches and your Mamma wears army boots”.
In the 70’s this was a saying we used to put someone in their place who thought they were all that. You might be a red-neck if you have a bumper sticker that says “My Son Is a Ditch Digger”. You may be shocked to find out that digging a ditch is one of the most spiritual things you can do!
In 2 Kings 3, we find the story of Gods people marching to battle against their enemy. There were in the desert and ran out of water, leaving them weak and vulnerable. They called on God and He sent them the prophet Elisha, and they begged him to give them a word from God. After a time of worship-and with great expectancy-the leaders waited for this man of God to give them the words that would deliver them.
“Dig ditches. In fact, fill the whole valley with ditches.” That’s all you got? “Dig a ditch.” What kind of foolish message is that? We are warriors ready for battle and you want us to drop our swords and start digging? Our enemies will mock us and chanting, “Your daddy digs ditches….”
I love the ways of God, they are always humbling to our pride and offensive to our wisdom. It would make sense to dig ditches if there was some secret underground stream, or if there were dark clouds in the distance, but that was not the case. They had to dig in humble obedience to the word from God. As they filled the valley with ditches, it must have felt much like digging their own graves. The wilderness is the place of dying to our abilities and strengths to discover His grace. Doing the faithful work that seems unimportant is our part of the miracle. We cannot create rain-that is God’s job-but we can be ready for it. In fact the Lord told them that they, “would never see any rain, yet the valley would be filled with water”.
This word reminds me of how John Wimber the founder of the Vineyard would describe how revival works. He used the analogy of the people of God in worship-without knowing where the water came from, they looked down and discovered they were standing ankle deep in water. They Lifted their heads to heaven, returning to worship, only to discover now that they were standing knee deep in the water. Again, they went back to worship, keeping their eyes on Jesus, not the level of the water. Suddenly they were being swept away by the water because it was so deep. John taught us to never seek the power of the Spirit, but to seek the presence of Jesus-because the power was in the presence. He cautioned us from focusing on the rising water and to just keep worshipping (digging ditches). The work of the Spirit is a mystery and cannot be manufactured, explained, or controlled. But we can be prepared with empty ditches that He can fill!
I received this word from the Lord to dig ditches a number of years ago when our church was experiencing a severe drought. We were going through a time of painful pruning, with many people leaving the church. We had lost nearly twenty percent of our congregation, moved back to one weekend service, and I was ready to quit. During this time my Mother moved in with us and was dying. It was a dark night for my soul. In the midst of this, the Lord challenged me to grab a shovel and start digging ditches. I knew He was not telling me to try to dig out of this, but to start doing things that brought expectation of the coming rain.
My ditches were things like digging deeper into time alone with the Father and journaling. I spent more time studying His word just to feed my soul. I invested more time in my young leaders. I worked on moving the church to be more outwardly focused. Much of what I did was uneventful and ordinary-just one shovel at a time. I did not want to dig alone, so I called our team to join me filling our valley with ditches.
We planned on new ditches in our church by launching our community groups with far more groups than we could ever fill. We restarted a second service, not knowing where the people would come from to fill it. We added another day in our Hope Center to feed people. We promoted some very young leaders to replace many of the old ones who had left the church. None of the things we did produced the rain, but we dug all these ditches in obedience and faith, expecting God to faithfully do His part. An Ugly Ditch is a statement that says we are desperately dependent, but confidently expectant. Something supernatural happens to a church that gets it about digging ditches.
To not dig is to die, as you cannot live long without hope. To not dig is to be unfaithful and lazy spiritually. To not dig is to be unprepared for His outpouring of blessings; they will just run off the hard ground. Waiting on God in the desert place is a very difficult journey, but if you grab a shovel and start digging some Ugly Ditches without looking for the rain clouds, it will build both character and your faith.
If you look at the hands of any leader who has survived the desert, you will discover some tough spiritually calloused hands from many hours with a shovel. Most Christians today have soft hands and calloused hearts. We need to learn the spiritual discipline of ditch digging. Remember as the Lord told the people about the ditches being filled “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord”. (2 Kings 3:18)
It is never our responsibility to do what is God’s part-that is prideful unbelief. It is also passive, lazy, and unfaithful to expect God to do our part. This is how grace works: we dig the ditches and He fills them with good things. So grab a shovel and start digging some Ugly Ditches. Don’t be surprised when you look down and the water is rising, just keep digging. I will receive it as an honor to be hear the Lord say “well done my good and faithful ditch digger”.