Friday, March 8, 2013

Digging Post Holes and the 11th Hour

"Pray always that you may come off conqueror". Especially when you are trying to dig a hole through frozen clay. - Deej & C 10:5

A few weeks ago we got a letter from our HOA telling us we couldn't have our dog outside without a fence. So we started looking at fences. After shopping around a bit, we decided that our cheapest option was to order the materials and put the fence in ourselves. Lucky for me, my awesome brother Sean, just got a job with best vinyl and knew everything there is to know about putting up a fence.
So last Friday I went to digging post-holes. With a shovel and a mattock. And a hand-post-hole digger. I had hoped that I could knock each hole out in about 30 minutes. 2 hours after I had started I had dug 15 inches into the ground. I went to bed disappointed but hopeful that I could rent a 2 man gas auger in the morning and give it a try again.
I woke up Saturday morning and gave Sean a call. He agreed to come over and help me out. We got right to digging, hoping that the frost line would only be about 6-10 inches and we could finish the Job in less than 30 minutes. I figured that would give me plenty of time to shower up and go to a baptism at noon. Progress was extremely slow. We measured every couple of minutes and saw that we were only moving along at about 1 inch every minute. "No big deal", we thought. After all, only a few inches and we should be through the frost. Wrong. We kept digging. After about 20 minutes of digging, our hole was about 18 inches deep. We kept thinking the next inch would break us through the frost and we could move on to the next hole. At about 20 inches we finally broke the frost line and the auger chewed up the last 4 inches plus an extra 4 in about 3 seconds. There was much rejoicing. Seriously, we started high-fiving each other and whooping and hollering. We excitedly moved on to the next hole (the one that I had dug 15" out already), knowing that we only needed to reach about 18-20 inches and we would be home free. 10 or so minutes later we had busted through another hole the hollering and hi-fiving continued. We took the auger to the third hole and started to work. Our hands were sore and our shoulders ached, but we knew just how far we had to go, and knowing that gave us strength to finish the job. The 3rd hole took another 20 minutes and  we pumped our fists as we moved to the last hole. We still had 45 minutes until we needed to return the auger and I had to go to the baptism. Plenty of time to do the last hole. We started digging but we started to hit what felt like cement at about 5 inches. I got down in the mud to see what we were hitting. It was the same frozen clay, but for some reason the auger just wasn't getting deeper. We got back on the auger and started trying to dig. Our hands were killing us but we kept pushing, we had to finish this last whole. We pulled the auger out and measured again after 2 minutes. Still 5 inches. We both felt desperate. After all we had dug for nearly 2 minutes, our hands were stiff and we saw NO progress. I checked my watch. We still had 30 minutes. We kept digging. Another 5 minutes passed and we measured again. 6 inches. Frustrated, we pulled the auger out and tried to think of what to do next. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, we needed to try something different. After resting a minute I checked my watch and saw that we had about 20 minutes left and still at least 20 inches to dig. We had seen almost no progress in the last 10 minutes. I decided it was time for a prayer. We closed our eyes while still holding on to the auger and I quietly asked Heavenly Father to help us dig the rest of the hole out before I had to go to the baptism. After the prayer I felt confident that we would reach our goal. I knew that Sean felt the same way, and so despite our pains we pushed even harder trying to dig the last hole. We tried using a hand drill to break up the ground and it seemed to get us about an inch per minute. We would drill with the hand drill for a few seconds and then put the auger back into the whole. I kept checking my watch and knew that we would be cutting it close. With only 5 or so minutes to go we had dug out 20 inches, only 4 more to go. We kept pushing, hoping that any second we would break through the frost and be finished digging the holes. At 21 inches we still hadn't broken the frost and it seemed like we had stopped moving again. I wondered if we would make the deadline. I though back on our prayer and it had seemed like the digging had actually gotten harder since we prayed! I thought about quitting and finishing later. I had to go to the baptism and the auger had to be returned. We got to 22 inches and still hadn't broken through. I asked Sean if the hole was deep enough to make it work. He said we still needed to get those last two inches. We pushed as hard as we could, putting all our weight on the auger. I grunted. My hands throbbed. "We can't make it", I thought, "I have to go." I looked at Sean and his determined look made me push on. "It's always darkest before the dawn", he said. "We are almost there." 23 inches. Why the heck have we not broken through this stinking permafrost? Suddenly the auger stalled for a split second and it finally broke the frozen clay. We yelled and hollered  and then quickly cleaned up. We were finally done.
As I got dressed and ready for the baptism I reflected on our little experience. I wondered why it had taken so long to dig that last hole, even after we had prayed in faith. Shouldn't we have been able to dig it in just a few minutes? Why had it actually gotten harder to dig the hole after we prayed? Shouldn't it get easier? As Sean said, "It's always darkest before the dawn." But why? C.S. Lewis asked the same question,
Where is God? . . . When you are happy. . . [you] turn to Him with gratitude and praise, [and] you will be. . . welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You [might] as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. . . . [Yet he was once there.]What can this mean? Why is [God] so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble? 
 Elder Holland explained,
"God wants us to be stronger than we are—more fixed in our purpose, more certain of our commitments, eventually needing less coddling from him, showing more willingness to shoulder some of the burden of his heavy load. In short, he wants us to be more like he is..."
 So maybe when it gets dark in our lives, right before we know the dawn should come, maybe God is trying to make us stronger, maybe he is testing our will to continue on. But, why would an omniscient being need to test our strength, he knows whether or not we will stay the course when the going gets tough. Why does it get harder when it should get easier? I think it is because I don't know how strong I can be. I guess, looking back, that I never knew I could wait more than 2 years to have my little girl. But now I know. Now I know how strong I can be when a trial comes. Now I know that God does come through, even if it is in the last hour. He will be there. "For he will fulfil all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promises which he has made unto our fathers"  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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