I’ve dug postholes in hard clay after months of no rain. I’ve dug postholes in rocky ground where I hit chunks of limestone only a few inches down. The holes I dug two days ago were the toughest two postholes I’ve ever dug in my life.
A little over a week ago, Randa and I decided to extend the wood board fencing around part of the horse pen. For just over ten years, we’d relied on metal round pen panels that have worked right well for us with a dozen different horses. Last fall, I’d reworked the base of the pen, adding used creosoted railroad ties as a retaining wall. I thought extending the wooden fence would look good, add a little character, and give us more usable area. It would also let us re-configure the space, which is right handy when you are keeping two horses instead of one. Besides, a post-and-board fence just looks more authentic in a sort of home for horses kind of a way.
The first five holes went pretty well. Sure, it was a bit challenging digging holes right against the railroad ties. Well, at the time it seemed a bit challenging but in retrospective relativity, they were pretty darn easy. The next two holes, not so much.
It’s probably about time that I mention the cottonwood tree on the east side of the pen. It’s in the neighborhood of sixty feet tall, nearly fifteen feet around at its base and spreads its branches for a shade diameter as wide as it is tall. You can be sure that a tree that big has an impressive root system. Exceptionally impressive if you’re trying to dig postholes in the vicinity. As it turns out, I needed to dig two holes right near the base of that Colossus.
Chiseling through a foot-and-a-half of cottonwood root takes a while, even with the help of a thirty-five-pound, axe-edged spud bar. Doing that twice seems to take more than twice the effort. Probably that’s because I was more than twice as tired by the time I finished the second hole. Each hole took over an hour.
I do have to admit, I was sort of proud of that big pile of wood chips and chunks of cottonwood root I’d stacked up. Proud, too, of those twenty-eight-inch-deep postholes. It should be noted, though, that I was not nearly as proud as I was sore and exhausted. Next time, I think we’re going to build our horse pen at least a mile from the nearest cottonwood tree.
When we live our faith with a similar level of determined and persistent obedience, we will do far more than set fence posts in difficult terrain.
We will feed the hungry, nurse the sick, and forgive others. We will turn the other cheek, return good for evil, and treat others as we would be treated. We will bring healing to ourselves and to those around us. We will share the gospel, live the teachings of the Carpenter, and walk humbly before others. We will move mountains, smash the stones of our own pride, prejudice, and indifference, and we will conquer our own spirits.
All of that we will do by his grace and in the strength he supplies. And, in the end, we will receive a rest that is far better than a handful of ibuprofen and an hour in a whirlpool tub.