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  • Tim Patterson


PLYMOUTH – It has been said of my homeland that, “this is where God sat down and made the rest of the world.”  One glimpse of the West Texas countryside will reveal the reason for this statement. It is a barren, flat and desolate place that is home to only the heartiest of desert dwellers.

Hundreds of years before the white man settled this region only jackrabbits, lizards, coyotes and a few brave, but very skinny Native Americans inhabited it. Sagebrush, cactus, mesquite, and sand covered the surface of this wilderness along with a few sprigs of buffalo grass.

When the pioneers were making their way to the West coast and happened upon this land, they made a very wise decision. They kept moving. No riches to be seen, but plenty of pain and suffering abounded.

Later, a few brave cowmen decided to make a go of ranching in this “God forsaken land” and for the most part did fairly well. Of course, it took five acres to graze one cow, but there was plenty to go around.

With the advent of the automobile and the insatiable need for petroleum, the search was on for new sources of oil. It just so happened that this dry and desolate desert became a true diamond in the rough. Beneath its unforgiving and harsh surface lay billions of barrels of the finest crude oil known to man. West Texas Crude is considered the benchmark for all other petroleum that is extracted from the coursing veins of our terrestrial ball.

Some people have the mistaken idea that it really doesn’t matter where one might drill for oil in West Texas. They think that all that is necessary is to punch a hole through the earth’s crust in the middle of this desert region and oil will automatically come gushing forth.

Many have operated under such a mistaken notion and have lost fortunes poking holes in these shifting sands. There is a great deal more to drilling for oil than just surveying the surface for a likely spot and setting up a rig. It is far too expensive a venture to risk drilling into some dark unknown hole.

To know where to drill is far more important than the drilling itself. When I was a young man and still living in Texas, this process of knowing where to drill was determined by a group of men known affectionately as “doodle-buggers.”

Doodle-buggers are men who operate seismographic equipment that maps and records the strata and substance of the subsurface formations. This is accomplished by creating shock waves with big hydraulic “thumpers” that are carried in large all-terrain vehicles. These “thumpers” pound the ground with enormous force, thus sending shock waves racing downward through the earth. Special seismographic instruments then record the returning shock waves as they are bounced back to the surface by the varying strata they encounter. 

A sonogram or “sound picture” is recorded, and then a knowledgeable geologist can read and interpret them, thus determining where the likelihood of oil deposits were to be found. Hundreds of thousands of miles of land are mapped before the first drill bit is placed in the ground.

When man first looked upon the flat desert lands of West Texas, he determined that it was worthless and undesirable. But when a closer observation was made of what lay below the surface, they came to the realization that this was, and is indeed, a valuable and precious place. What lies beneath is where the real worth resides.

God tells us that man is in many ways like this desert region. That which we see on the surface of man is not that which determines the true worth of an individual, but what lies deep beneath the exterior is where a man’s value is to be found. The foundation upon which the whole man stands or falls, is discovered deep within the heart of an individual and not by his outward appearance.

If we desire to know the true worth and character of an individual, we cannot determine this by looking only at the outward appearance. We must know and see the foundation upon which one’s life is built. The clothes one wears or the physical features one possesses has little or nothing to do with who that person is. What lies below the surface is the deciding factor.

You and I have a difficult time seeing past the outward appearance of men, but God does not. In fact, He tells us in I Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said unto Samuel, look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

I can just imagine what many of those early settlers thought after they passed up all that sand only to later find out that wealth beyond belief lay just below the surface. “If I had just known. I would have…….?”

When it comes to people, God does know. Shouldn’t we ask Him what He thinks of an individual before we pass judgment on them? There could be a world of riches lying just below the surface. If you don’t believe me, just ask a “Doodle-bugger.”



Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.





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