Digging Deep Wells

Posted on September 16, 2012


I sat in the evening session of Stake Conference last night as scrambled as a Kal-toh game. Organize kids to help, pick tomatoes, wash and boil and icewater and skin them (the tomatoes), cut and squeeze and blend and boil them, add spices, chop onions and peppers and add them, turn down to simmer, hurry and shower, dress and run, sit and hope for clarity. With wet curls and fast makeup and my most comfortable clothes, I was there, sitting in the back with my notebook and two pens, hoping for a revelation to order this chaos of late.

Kal-toh is the perfect analogy. A Vulcan strategy game highlighted in the last series of Star Trek, Kal-toh is a holographic jumble of rods that one can move one at a time to form an  icosidodecahedron. The goal of the game is to find within the chaos the seeds of order, and when one finds and places the final piece, the rods suddenly move from a collapsed and unrecognizable mess to a beautiful, ordered shape. It happens in a moment, this transition, often to the surprise of all watching, just as we often find in our lives that a single change alters the whole structure of our chaos to sensibility and order.

As it turned out, a young woman with a tremulous voice pointed to my next move. She talked about digging a well with her father when she was a child. It was hard work at first, digging with a shovel larger than she was, but they moved the hard, rocky soil, then the sandy soil, then the wet clay. She was tired and the hole was deep and dark but she trusted her father who knew that there was water to be found there and knew the progression of the earth’s layers. After the wet clay they found heavy, black mud.

“Mud’s gross,” she breathed tiredly, and the congregation tittered. “Yes, it is,” I thought, exhausted. Chaotic, messy, and not very useful for drinking, especially after tedious, hope-draining digging.

Her father was elated, however, and pressed on excitedly. To him, the mud was the last layer before the water. And so it was. Her theme was our stake theme this year, taken from the soothing, melodic words of Isaiah: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” To draw that water, one must dig the well, pressing through the layered rock and silt and compressed life of wet clay to the heavy mud that signals water is close. When that last, heavy shovelful lifts, the water begins to pour into the well one has created. Like a Kal-toh game when the last seed of order has been discovered, the work suddenly ceases and the beautiful, ordered shape of it all appears.

I saw other moves last night, and in my prayers this morning began to see the order, and one of the final moves to bring order to this chaos of many jobs to do, disappointment, confusion, and tragedy. Some time ago I was inspired to pray for  the ability to do something I had been inspired to do but had no means, and the opportunity simply appeared in answer to the prayer. This morning I realized that this is a pattern.

When we are lost, we must pray for either inspiration or an opportunity, either the knowledge of what and how to do or a door simply opening without commentary. God seems to respond in one of those two ways. Sometimes we forget to keep doing this, even as we continue to drive our shovel into the earth and lift increasingly heavy loads from an increasingly deep well. The fact that the water isn’t pouring in yet or the shape hasn’t magically transformed doesn’t mean you’re not successful. You’re just not finished yet.

As marathoners and hand well-diggers and people of faith all know, it’s hardest at the end. The heaviness in and of itself is encouraging, because it means the goal is close, if we have a larger view. I come from a land of deep wells and large underground aquifers. Sometimes you hit water at 60 feet, but the well might run dry because you’ve only hit a temporary upper reservoir. The better wells are deeper, 120 feet or so, and tap into the main aquifer. This morning I realized that sometimes it’s a blessing when we don’t hit water quickly and are forced to dig deeper.

Deep wells are dependable. Those are the kind you can draw from with joy.

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