by Tim Patterson
PLYMOUTH, MI – In the early years of our marriage and ministry, Sabrina and I lived in the hamlet of Marathon, Texas at the edge of the Big Bend National Park. I worked in a small church as the associate pastor, which really meant that I was the personal slave of the pastor. It really was a great learning experience that I will value for the rest of my life.
One of the perks of that ministry assignment was that I had the opportunity to travel that region quite extensively. While driving those roads, the beauty and expanse of the vistas that were afforded me were almost incomprehensible. Jagged peaks and desert valleys filled my view from one horizon to the other. There awaited me around every turn visual delights and windows of wonder into God’s great creation that those who have visited this part of our country will fully understand.
In my first year there, I was taken in by the enormity of it all, but as I spent more time in the area I began to take notice of the small and more intricate beauties of the landscape. The small reptiles and the tiny rodents that dotted the desert floors were amazing, as were the various cacti and flowering plants. The rocks, sand, and variations in strata seemed to have been painted by some great imaginative artist.
Something I began to notice as I traveled were mounds of rock and dirt at the base of mountains, knolls, and outcroppings. Their shapes and colors betrayed their manmade genesis and were somewhat out of place with their surroundings. I later discovered that these mounds of rocks and dirt were the results of men digging for gold ore in those desert hills. As I began to purposefully look for and observe these variations, it was obvious that hundreds of them could be seen across the landscape.
Some were located high in the crevasses of lofty peaks while others were more easily accessible at the base of foothills. Their locations seemed to have little to do with logic or reason and did not seem to follow any pattern. At one time this region boasted some profitable silver and quicksilver mines, and I have been told that very few true producing gold mines ever existed.
Pioneers, adventurers, and travelers from across the globe came to this barren region of West Texas to find their fortunes and build the empires that obviously, only existed in their minds. With all their worldly possessions in a few bags and bundles, they left the comforts of cities, towns, and villages to live the solitary life of a prospector. The future would hold unbelievable loneliness and isolation, and conditions that would make even the residents of Hades happy to live in the abyss. It was a hard life, yet untold numbers of men gambled their livelihoods and very lives for the almost nonexistent chance at riches.
Today, I see person after person doing the same thing as those wishful prospectors of the past. They leave all that is good and right to stake a claim on nothing more than a fantasy that has about as much substance as the dreams that produced them. Instead of building their lives on that which is real and lasting, they scurry about poking holes in barren soils that offer nothing but misery. And just like the abandoned mines and shafts of the Big Bend of Texas, this present life is pocked with the desperate diggings of disappointed men. All they have to show for their efforts are empty holes.
It has been my experience, and now my conviction, that fulfillment, happiness, and peace are found much closer to home and it is unnecessary to traipse across the barrens of this world to possess them. In fact, those wonderful states of being can only be found in one's heart. Not the muscular pump that delivers life-giving blood to our bodies, but the inner Soul and Spirit of the human being. And here is the good part, all of this peace and fulfillment is a free gift. Peace, fulfillment, and complete satisfaction are ours for the asking. All He asks for in return is our hopeless and hapless lives. It sounds like a good trade to me. Besides, it is my understanding that when we get to heaven they use gold instead of asphalt to pave the streets. What a deal!
Stop digging and start believing. Empty holes or full–filled hearts? It’s your choice.
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)
"My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice." (Proverbs 8:19)
"There is one alone, without companion: He has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, Nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, “For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?” This also is vanity and a grave misfortune. (Ecclesiastes 4:8)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.