We have a ditch that runs along one side of our back yard. We’ve tried to pretty it up with a Weeping Willow and a Crabapple tree, but it primarily serves as an imaginary world for neighborhood kids. My youngest son and his posse have built a fort in this ditch, along with a military war zone complete with tunnels and trenches.
I was recently in the ditch myself, picking up debris washed in by heavy rains. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I discovered new meaning to being “in” the ditch. Like a bowling bowl dropping from an overpass, down I went and three-fourths of my lower body was underground.
The neighborhood troops had dug a deep hole, then covered it with leaves and pine straw.
“We were just trying to catch the enemy,” my youngest explained.
“Well, you caught THE MOM!” I informed him. “Now get me out of here!”
Clearly, I had failed to keep good watch on my littlest sheep. He and his pals are great kids, but they’re definitely a Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn kind of a crowd—energetic, brimming with ideas and always up for adventure. If you don’t check on them every 20 minutes, you might find them on the roof.
Or you might find yourself in a hole.
My descent reminded me that life is full of ditches and it’s easy to fall into one. For instance, if your morning starts out badly, it can set the tone for the rest of the day. (If that morning happens to be a Monday, take cover--your whole week might be shot.) A flat tire can flatten a good attitude, while gloomy weather can trigger woe-is-me. As negativity breeds negativity, our problems seem bigger and our solutions seem smaller. We can turn edgy, depressing, contrary, victimized and as much fun as wading through a gator swamp.
Some ditches are just waiting to be dug, and our actions are the shovel that breaks ground. If you’ve ever experienced the “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” syndrome, you may know that idle gossip or getting in that last word can cause all sorts of trouble. Procrastination will not only put you in a ditch, it will bury you with unfinished tasks and unmet goals. On the flip side, too much busyness will rob you of quality time with family, friends—and the Lord.
Bad habits are another ditch. Have you ever done great on a diet, until you decided to treat yourself with your weakness of choice? For some of us, that hot fudge cake is the Ditch of Doom that unravels everything. Diet? What diet? I have a friend who gave up smoking for seven years. One day, for whatever reason, he decided to smoke one, just one, cigarette. Two cartons later, he was lamenting that decision. “It just grabbed me so fast,” he said.
One of the deepest ditches is money management. As just one example, I can’t count the folks I know who have taken out consolidation loans to pay off credit card debt. Slowly but surely, they ran those cards back up. Now they’re making payments on their cards AND the consolidation loan. Not a fun ditch to be in.
From Proverbs 26:27, we read, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it.” (NIV) Honestly, I don’t think the Lord could have made it any clearer than with this short and sweet warning.
The minute we pick up the shovel is the minute we risk creating our own ditch or striking one of those landmines of life. Better to put the shovel down and pick up the Book of Proverbs, which is an amazing guide on how to avoid trouble. God truly does have something to say about every aspect of our lives and instructs us on how to handle ourselves in a multitude of everyday situations.
Ditches are everywhere, and plenty more are waiting to be dug. The more we cling to the Lord, the more we’ll steer clear, catch ourselves or fill those ditches in.
For me, starting the day with prayer, praises and God’s Word is the best tool for staying on level ground. Without them, I might as well grip the shovel and start digging.