February 3

Digging Ditches in the Rain

February 3, 2011

Personal Growth

One recent evening, as I was working at my computer, I heard rain falling heavily on the roof. I got up and changed into my work clothes, at which point my wife, Donna, asked, "Where are you going?"

"Outside, of course."

"In this rain?"

"Oh yeah," I said with a smile. "This is perfect weather for digging ditches."

In the hills of north Georgia, we get a lot of rain, and when we first moved here, we discovered that there were many places on the property where the rainwater accumulated in large puddles or small ponds, because the water couldn't find a way to the nearby creek. I began to dig ditches, which were designed to create a path for the standing water to reach the creek. Water always flows downhill, so effective drainage ditches must slope down for their entire length. If a ditch rises at any point, the water will back up at that place, creating a puddle.

Initially, I dug the ditches in good weather, because it was more pleasant, but when it rained I found that in several places the water was backed up. In other places, there were ripples on the surface of the flowing water, indicating that the ditch was too shallow. In shallow water, there is little buffer between the bottom and the top of the water, so any turbulence created by a rock or other irregularity on the bottom is seen as a ripple on the water surface. When the water is deep, the turbulence is sufficiently buffered by the overlying water that it doesn't reach the surface, so the surface of the water is smooth. Hence the expression, "Still waters run deep."

So I learned to dig ditches in the rain, where the constant flow of water immediately demonstrated where the ditches were sloped inadequately, or where they were too shallow, or where there were obstacles in the bed of the ditch. Cleaning ditches in the rain-soaked to the skin, cold, and sloshing about with boots full of water—isn't the most comfortable way to work, but it is the most effective. The rain is both an inconvenience and a great asset.

As I was digging in the rain, it occurred to me that the process was similar to what I have experienced in eliminating the unproductive behaviors in my life. When there's no rain—when there are no hardships, injustices, or other inconveniences—I find it much more difficult to accurately identify where I need to improve. In fact, if there is no rain long enough, I can convince myself that I don't need to work on anything at all.

When it rains, however—when circumstances are difficult and when people are unkind, ungrateful, and insensitive—I realize what I need to work on. It's when it rains that I see my emptiness and fears, as well as my unhealthy reactions to those conditions. I used to pray that all the rain in my life would be eliminated, but I've changed my attitude about that.

Now I hope only that I will learn from the rain when it comes. It may be uncomfortable, but it also guides me toward finding the love and happiness I really want.

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