The garden center had called to let us know that they would deliver our garden bushes early the next morning. In order to help with lowering the risk of transplant shock, they recommended that we have the holes prepared for the bushes, so they could help us plant them quickly and safely. So my strong, late-teen son and I headed outside with shovel and spade in hand.
Several months into this new home, we were still unaccustomed to working on our own property. Having only rented, or stayed in the homes of others, for the first 26 years of our marriage, our family still felt like we needed to tread carefully on ground that couldn’t possibly belong to us. The sloping yard required extra care to keep the water draining away from our home. So in an effort to help with that, and in a move to develop some pretty screening at the edge of our lot line, I had researched the benefits of creating a small “rain garden” and a “french tile” drainage system. We had been busy digging the ways for all of these, and on many days my son grew tired of my calls for help.
However, this digging venture proved to uncover something more fascinating than just a hole in the ground. As our shovels struck against countless river rocks, we would pause to remove stone after stone. Until the moment the shovel hit something different. A spark flew into the air in front of us, and we both jumped back. At the next strike, it happened again, and we both looked in shock as the dirt fell away from a large flint deposit in our ground. With no time to pause, we removed the rocks to the best of our ability, hoping to finish before dark so that we would be ready for the gardeners’ delivery the next morning.
But after the holes were finished, and I went inside, I searched out my journals for the Scriptures the Lord had given me before we purchased this home. And there it was:
He made him ride on the heights of the land
and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock,
and with oil from the flinty crag, Deuteronomy 32:13 NIV
And while we had been busily clearing away cart after cart of underbrush and tangled thorny vines, the Lord reminded me of the other verses that had been a deep promise to us:
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever. Isaiah 55:12-13
Now, 14 years later, I opened my journals again to read the promise the Lord had taken deeper on that day of the flint-digging:
The ground here is filled with rocks and flint deposits, but we are taking out the thorns and briers, and digging holes in the very flinty rock to bring forth good plants with the proper water and beauty and joy: HIS OIL OF JOY.
As I pondered that long-ago promise, and those Scriptures, I asked the Lord about the oil that was to come from the flinty ground. How did that oil fit into our years of living here? Why was that flinty ground so important? So I researched again, and found these notes from Benson’s Commentary:
“To suck honey out of the rock — Placed him in a country where honey flowed from the very rocks, the bees making it in the holes thereof, or in the hollow trees that grew upon or among the rocks. Oil out of the flinty rocks — Olive-trees growing and bearing fruit best in rocky or hilly places. The expressions are proverbial, and denote a most fertile land.”
Could it really be possible that in these years of digging holes, and planting, and growing, in a hilly land that has felt so impossible to care for, God has planned a most beautiful object lesson?
In these years of thorny underbrush, and hard rocks, has there come a crop of oil that has trickled through the softened soil of my heart?
Through these years of planted prayers, and watered Words, has God been reaping His own harvest of JOY for me and those I love?
Not too many years after planting those first bushes, our daughter graduated from our Homeschool Highschool, that teenage son who dug the holes moved away to college where he met his wife, and our oldest son traveled to Vietnam where He met his wife. The questions were raised to me then, “So, what are you going to do with your days? Where will you work now?” I stumbled with an answer, while I sought the Lord for His. But what He gave me wasn’t what I expected:
Your work is your prayer. Lift your days up to ME and I will fill them.
And so I did, one rock at a time. Weeding the garden and praying for the burdens. Walking the neighborhood and meeting weary souls. Driving my neighbor and listening to her stories. Picking up the phone and interceding with a friend. And all the while, as I was moving stones, God was breaking up the ground of my heart, and planting the olive trees for HIS oil to flow.
And one day, in the midst of a slowed-down way of life brought on by Chronic Illness, I looked up to my Lord and saw the honey in His hand. He had been feeding me all along, nourishing my soul as I let Him pour the oil out to share with those I loved.
Oh Beloved friend, have you been removing rock after rock? Have you been busy cutting away the thorny briers? Can you pause long enough to hear His promise being spoken over your heart? There is oil that can only come from those rocky wind-swept places. There is honey to be tasted that only He can give.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for Your purposes that You have set in motion even before time began. Thank You that You have planted us in Your own dear garden. Will You have free reign in our hearts to remove the thorny briers, and flinty rocks? Will You show us the plantings that You have begun in these hard and hilly places? Open our eyes to see the oil that even now is beginning to flow. We want to taste YOUR Joy, the Joy of the Lord. Thank You that Your own Dear Son has won the gift even for us.
In the Name of Jesus we pray,
(And for those of you who are wondering–yes, I did add a piece of that flint to my rock collection!)
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