For the past couple of days, I've been shoveling mulch by the pick-up full. The first few loads were really tough until I realized:
I was doing it wrong.
This truck bed was piled as high as it could hold every time it backed up to drop off a load. And I, the youngest and most able-bodied of the crew, hopped right up in the back and started shoveling off into a 4-wheeler and a wheelbarrow for everyone else to disperse as they pleased. My brain told me: start at the top. Shovel off the top and work your way down so you're not lifting all of that heavy mulch with every scoop. It will be easier that way. Then I grew increasingly frustrated as I was just tossing more of it into a flatter pile than I was able to actually scoop into my shovel.
It seems counterintuitive, but once I started scooping from the bottom, the whole process got a great deal easier. Running that shovel up underneath the whole pile, scraping against the truck bed as I went, I was able to keep my efforts in my scoop and lo and behold, the rest of the pile was not a heavy burden; it simply fell loose as I pulled out my shovel, making the entire thing easier in the long haul.
The mulch has got me thinking. It's got me thinking about the shards of life that kind of seem piled up, the way there are just these things that I wish I could change here or there but it seems like if I ever want to get to the base of the problem, I ought to start by skimming stuff off the top. It makes me think about all the times in my life I have been waiting on change, praying for change, and believing it starts with all the surface stuff. That difference is made from the top down.
Which is why so little difference is ever truly made. We spend all of our time shuffling things that aren't really things, shoving more off to the side than scooping it away. Spreading our piles instead of digging them out. Then we find ourselves in this big mess, with little problems spread out everywhere and...just standing there looking at it, it looks like we've made the whole problem bigger. Instead of getting to the bottom of it. There's more trouble to deal with, more base to mess with, more mess to clean up.
It seems counterintuitive, but if you want change in your life - honest, Godly, good change - you've got to start scooping from the bottom. You have to go right to the base. You have to get at the root of the problem, the foundation on which it is bearing weight. It seems wrong. It seems like too much weight to bear, like if you tried to start scooping from there, you'd have to pick everything up at once. Who can lift such a burden?
But the opposite is true. When you go straight to the base, dig straight into the bottom of the problem, what you find is that all the little stuff that's piled on top of it, all of the surface stuff loosens up and starts to fall away. And it's easier to shuffle off.
You know what? It's true. It really works. When you go straight to the core of your problem, all of these other things that look like your problem - these things borne of defense mechanisms and survival necessities - just kind of fall away. You don't have to take the habits away to get to the heart; go to the heart and the habits will fall. Because you just won't need them any more. It takes awhile (literally, days, in terms of mulch; sometimes years in terms of hearts) but it all falls away, gets shuffled out, and you discover what you kind of already knew...
It's manure. Pretty much all of it.
When you find your heart heavy, your life burdened, a mountain that seems too big to move, don't waste another second skimming off the top. Grab your shovel and dig right in.