Digging Ditches

Inspiration to Reach Your Mountaintop

By: Suzannah Driver

What could go wrong?

If you can do any other job other than church planting and pastoring, do that!” Joe and I looked at each other and joined the chuckles coming from other future church planters sitting in the room. We had a combined twenty-two years of ministry under our belts and knew God had called us to plant a life-giving church in Pensacola, Florida. So, what could go wrong?! The short answer is: Everything

Nearly three years into leading and pastoring Echo Life, I think back on the cautionary statement spoken to the eager church planters. Would we have ever chosen a different route? No. We know through and through this is exactly where we are supposed to be and what we are called to be doing. But this has single-handedly been the most challenging and difficult three years we have experienced in ministry. 

Reaching the Summit

Mount Fuji, though it is a mere 12,388 feet tall, is no joke. I have had the opportunity to summit this mountain twice. On both occasions, we began the ascent at midnight, guided only by our headlamps and a small, braided cord leading to the top. The climb is virtually straight up. The terrain is made up of unstable pumice stones. The air is thin, making it difficult to breathe. Most of my climb was alone, in the dark, feeling light-headed, stumbling my way up, and rolling my ankles at least 30 times. This is also church planting. 

I would love to say that everything has been a beautiful mountaintop experience, but that would be so far from the truth. It has been a lonely uphill climb full of bumps and bruises. For several months now, I have felt like I have been struggling up a mountain and have only seen the light of day for a moment. This is the kind of discouragement that leaves you sitting on your laundry room floor weeping and asking God if this really was the right move (by the way, the enemy is a jerk and loves to kick you while you’re down. Don’t pay any attention to the thoughts you have in these dark moments. Find a friend who can share a light with you and show you that you are still moving in the right direction). 

Kings Digging Ditches

As I have been fighting my way through the deep, dark, discouragement, my time with Jesus has landed me in 2 Kings 3. Three kings have come together to fight against Moab and they find themselves wandering in the desert and completely out of water. They call for a prophet and Elisha shows up on the scene and gives them a word. “Dig ditches all over the valley.”

I imagine these kings looked at each other in disbelief. Surely they knew about the exodus story (kind of a big deal). They knew God had provided water from a rock, manna from heaven, so surely He could do it again! But no, God instructs the people to…digditches.

This is the desert. The sun beating down, the tools are primitive. The prophet continues, “You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you.” (2 Kings 16-19 MSG) 

Can you imagine crying out to God for help and then Him telling you to do some back-breaking work in the desert. “Dig ditches.” How many? How deep? For how long? When is the rain showing up again? How are these going to be filled? The people had no answers but instead had an opportunity to operate in faith and obedience. 

Filling Up the Valley

Like many other believers and pastors, I am in a season of digging ditches. I am asking God for provisions, and I know He will provide, but the nagging question of when and how make faithful obedience even more difficult. Add to that the age of social media and I’m over here looking at other churches wondering why they got the provisions and I’m still having to dig with no end in sight.

This is where I have been the last several months. Many days of tears, frustration, anger, and feeling abandoned by God. Then I remember, “ You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…this is EASY for God to do…” My responsibility is to be faithful. My responsibility is to obey. My responsibility is to dig in where I am placed and not check to see whose ditch is already finished. 

Maybe you’ve been digging for weeks, months, or years. Maybe you feel like your ditch is significantly deeper than the people around you. Maybe God is preparing you to be a well of great depth for future generations. Maybe He is preparing you for far more than you could ever imagine. Don’t give up! Don’t keep looking for the wind and rain, but know and believe that He is faithful. He sees you. He will answer you! Keep digging! You are not alone. 

Suzannah Driver

You can follow Suzannah on social media at @SuzannahDriver. You can find out more about the church she pastors along with her husband Joe in Pensacola, Florida, at echolifechurch.com.

Enjoying the Journey

A story of happy accidents.

Do you have something you are passionate about but maybe are not the most talented in that area? For me, that is running. I started running almost by accident. One year, after moving to a new school, I found out I had missed football tryouts. Instead of sitting out of sports completely I decided to look for another option. That’s when I found out the Cross Country team doesn’t have tryouts. They will take anyway willing to suffer a hilly trail, blisters on their feet, and constantly sore calf muscles. While running through country roads, winding paths, and quiet downtown streets I fell in love with running. It was a hobby birthed almost by accident.

If only all accidents had a happy ending.

Most times in life an accident means trouble, pain, or at least a change of plans. I wish they were all happy accidents, but most of the time they are not. I heard the sticky note was created by accident. I wish I had more accidents like that. Most of my accidents would lead to me giving up on creating, not creating something that changes a company for the better.

Have you ever had an accident slow you down?

A New Goal

Last year I set the goal of finishing a half-marathon under two hours. About six months later I finished a half marathon at 2:00:44. I started slow and missed my goal by 44 seconds. I wasn’t exactly happy about this, but at least I was getting close. It seemed inevitable that I would break two hours at the next half marathon. When the next race came a few months later I finished at 2:00:04. Four seconds people!

At that point, I wanted to throw my running shoes over the nearest powerline (ala Marshawn Lynch) and give up forever. I would let my running dreams hang over the neighborhood by their treacherous laces as a reminder to all who saw them to never run. Running will break your heart.

One More Try

Instead of giving up though, I doubled down on my efforts. I found a partner who was a Boston Qualifier, aka much faster than me. I went back to the gym and committed to a cross-training plan. I showed up early mornings at what I call the unforgiving circle of torture or what you may know as the local track. I put in the work. I even took it easy when I got too soar. I did everything right, and you know what. I was running much faster than a two-hour pace.

Everything was working according to plan until another accident found its way into my plans. Seven days before my race where I was almost destined to obliterate my two-hour goal I allowed my momentum to carry me down a hill too fast and twisted my knee in an awkward way.

I wouldn’t be able to run my race. I wouldn’t make it to my goal.

Another Disappointment

What really upset me was that I had never worked so hard, been so consistent, and invested so much time towards a running goal. So many times I got to the finish line and know I didn’t do my best in preparation. This time I had. I truly did my best but wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finishing. It felt like something I paid for was taken from me right as it almost touched my fingertips.

But was there any lemonade to be made from these lemons? The thing that caused me the most pain, the amount of time I had invested in this goal, would ultimately by my saving grace. When I really thought about it, yes it was a sacrifice, but getting up early to run and going to the gym to workout was its own reward. I was healthy, had lots of energy, and felt good about myself. Making new friends and growing in relationship with old ones all came as a result of the journey to get to that under two-hour mark.

An Unexpected Destination

I didn’t make it to the finish line, but that was always only 1% of the experience anyway. If you can’t enjoy the other 99% of the process than you probably aren’t investing in the best thing for you. When I looked back over the time leading up to that disappointment I can happily say that I enjoyed the experience of preparation. The final destination was not the two-hour half marathon expected through. Instead, the journey took me to a place that taught me a new lesson in enjoying the journey.

Life is full of unfinished business, unrealized expectations, and unfulfilled dreams. If we measure life by destinations then we ignore the lessons and pleasures of the journey to those destinations. Many times God is not just leading us to somewhere or to do something but to become someone. I want to be someone who enjoys the journey and helps others do the same.