Digging Trenches vs. Mining Treasures


I was very active in Boy Scouts in my youth. Part of the appeal was that I lived in the Samoset Council in Wisconsin. And we had Camp Tesomas (purposeful play on words). Camp Tesomas was where “Camping is King.”  Tesomas was the only camp whose logo was designed by Walt Disney himself.

While I’ve been camping hundreds of times — from wilderness to cabins — one time that stuck out to me was one of the first. My troop was camping up in the Porcupine Mountains, which are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. For young scouts, wilderness tent camping was exciting and seemingly dangerous with wild animals and unpredictable conditions.

We set up our tents, and my “tent-buddy” and I stepped back and proudly looked at our work. Rod was a more experienced scout. He looked up at the sky and had an “a-ha” moment.  “Get us a couple of thick sticks,” he said and used his hands to suggest the approximate size. I got two sticks that were the diameter of hammer handles, and then we proceeded to carve pointed ends with our knives.

As a newbie, I was curious as to what these were for.  Was it extra stakes to secure the tent?  Weapons to ward off raccoons or bear?  Rod started on one side of the outside of the tent – and proceeded to dig a tiny trench all the way around the tent. He even added a trench away from the tent going downhill.  While I worked the other side, he explained that it looked like rain, and that digging a small trench would divert water away preventing flooding.

It worked.  Little drops turned into a significant storm.  We could hear the curses coming from other tents.  Digging a trench worked wonders. Never did I think such a small effort would lead to big results.

That Was Then … This is Now

Fast forward 40 years later. Before my entrance into The Crucible Project, I knew I had to do work on the man that God had originally purposed me to be.  I started doing what I always do. I started to dig a trench.  For my life. 

To be specific, I would do just enough to please the conditions and people around me in order to keep things going.  In my marriage, that meant doing a “few” weeks of treating my wife better.  At work, it meant a “little” extra effort to avoid the criticism.  Sound familiar?

It didn’t work.  This time, digging a trench didn’t work wonders.  Never did I think such a small effort would lead to no results.

In my personal work on the journey — and in working with men over the last five years — I’ve realized a few things:

  • I’ve actually been digging trenches all my life. I’ve lived on the surface, so even working on my life was done in a ‘surfacy’ way.  With work and in relationships, I did what I needed to do to maintain.  Just enough to divert the real issues and problems.  If people around me would observe my life, they might think that I was truly self aware and committed to improvement and health. However, I was truly deteriorating inside and outside.  All my relationships – God, wife, kids, coworkers were experiencing the results.  Too scared to look beneath the surface, I was comfortable putting in some minimal effort by digging a trench.  It certainly seems like progress – but its just a diversion from the stuff that lies below.  As C.S. Lewis states, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
  • God doesn’t call us to dig trenches. God calls us to mine for treasure. Just recently, I read a news article that King Tut’s Tomb was scanned with radar, discovering more potential chambers with both metal and organic materials. Archeologists are delighted with the potential of more treasures. Unfortunately, there is the issue of digging into stone. “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self,” said Ben Franklin. There’s hard work that needs to be done, and we cannot get around it.  I don’t know about you, but I first thought that really sucked. However, the rewards of digging deep to find that first chamber of treasure is richly rewarding. My family, my mission and life’s purpose, my relationship with God have all benefited from digging deeply. Even God’s word has backed up my work in Proverbs 20:5.  “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”  Mining for treasure means work – doing things I don’t like to do – things like spending time alone reflecting and meditating, journaling, getting feedback from true friends, reading a book that has insight, among other things.
  • Mining for treasure isn’t just for ourselves, by ourselves. My trench digging was always an individual thing.  It never lasted long, partially because I was the only one who knew I was doing it. Now, I dig deep with the help of my family, and friends who truly care. Men who know me – they know my shadow and my gold – they challenge me on a daily basis because I keep in contact daily.  How different from an isolated life. How hard at times.  How rich life is compared to the past.
  • We need to keep digging deep. The journey continues.  I am willing to bet that as they uncover more chambers of treasure in King Tut’s tomb, they will find even more chambers than they thought. That’s my goal, I bring treasure up to the people I love and share it with them, and then go back down – continuing to dig – deeper – because there is more. It never ends. Not until I see Jesus face to face.

By Tim White

Tim completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2013. He has staffed weekends and leads a Faithful & True group of men, many are part of The Crucible Project community. As a former senior pastor and now principal consultant at The Wildwood Agency, Tim is fulfilling his mission by giving men guidance through vulnerable transparency.

Photo Credit: Wapster via Creative Commons