Move and Dig

Move and Dig

Change is not the enemy but an opportunity

“Change is not the enemy but an opportunity.” My parents often shared these words when our family handled seasons of change. To be honest, those words often annoyed me. I don’t love change. I like stability. I like predictability. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that much of life involves change whether we want it or not. We age, we move, we change jobs, we change schools. There are all sorts of changes we must undergo. 

Despite my lack of love for change, it has still been a theme of the last 15 years of my life. In the last decade and a half, I have lived in 6 different cities, 4 different states, and I am pretty sure I have had to change which room I live in about 15 times. I have had to get used to adapting because this has been a season of constant transition. Though I hope the next decade brings more stability, I do believe that change is one of God’s favorite classrooms. 


Change in the life of Isaac

In Scripture, we are shown several characters who had to adapt to changes, foreseen and unforeseen. I will never forget a Dallas Seminary chapel message from Genesis 26 on the patriarch Isaac’s encounter with undesired change. Isaac was the son given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age as the beginning of God’s promised fulfillment to give Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars. God promised to bless these descendants with a great land and to use them to bless the nations. But in this passage we see obstacles that seemingly threaten the fulfillment of such promises. 

At this stage in Isaac’s life, he had been living in the town of Gerar because of a famine. Because of God’s blessing upon Isaac, he was becoming too powerful for the comfort of those around him, therefore, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, asked Isaac to leave Gerar and find safety somewhere else. So Isaac agrees to this unexpected transition. See what transpires next: 

Then Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found a well of spring water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek because they argued with him. Then they dug another well and quarreled over that one also, so he named it Sitnah. He moved from there and dug another, and they did not quarrel over it. He named it Rehoboth and said, “For now the Lord has made space for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:19-22).

At first glance this is not exactly what I would call a gripping narrative, but our chapel speaker opened my eyes to the beauty of this passage. In the passage prior, God confirmed with Isaac the oath he made with his father Abraham and said “Live in the land that I tell you about; stay in this land as an alien, and I will be with you and bless you. For I will give all these lands to you and your offspring…I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (26:2-4). If I was Isaac and had just received this promise from God and now these herdsmen are telling me I cannot use the wells my family dug, I would probably give some pushback, both to the herdsmen and to God. But what do we see Isaac do? “He moves and digs, he moves and digs, he moves and digs.” This was the refrain our chapel speaker repeated again and again during that chapel message. “He moves and digs.” Isaac did not wallow in self-pity. He didn’t attack these herdsmen, he kept moving and he kept digging. 


Stewarding change

Amid all of my own transitions I have done a lot of moving, but I have not always done a lot of digging. I have seen change more as an enemy than an opportunity for further obedience. I have thought, “Lord, until you bring me to a place where I can settle, I am not going to make an effort to establish relationships or seek the flourishing of this temporary pit stop.” I have often seen change as something to resent, not steward. 

Did you note that the passage referred to the well Isaac dug as a “spring of water”? Springs of water were often a rare find in the valleys. In the time before running water, wells did not just mean refreshment, they meant life. Even though Isaac did not partake for long of the life which that well produced, I imagine those wells led to the flourishing of many who came after. 

Eventually God allows Isaac to settle at the well of Rehoboth, which is the Hebrew word for “open spaces.” I love that! And isn’t that what we all want? A place to live, rest, and thrive. If only that was our common reality in this fallen world. Instead, life more often reflects the name of the other two wells: “argument” and “hostility.” 

Change in my life has often included arguing with God. I think I know what I need better than he does, so I dig my heels in and refuse to move, fighting for control. In other seasons, I have faced hostility from those around me and could not move fast enough, but the Lord has called me to keep digging and serving those who made life difficult. I wouldn’t mind changing so much if I could have the exact timing, outcomes, and environments I want. But change does not often work that way. I cannot control every aspect of life, but I can steward the change he allows. 


Move and dig

I don’t know where God has you right now. I don’t know what seasons of change you are presently experiencing. Maybe it’s a new job, maybe a new marriage, or a new child. Perhaps your change involves loss; the loss of a job, a dream, a loved one. Now you are adjusting to a life that comes with a great void. There may be “hostility” at work or in your neighborhood that is forcing a change like it did for Isaac. 

Whatever the source of your change, I admonish you to keep moving and keep digging.  I challenge you to think about what your digging might mean for those around you. Maybe you are about to leave your job, but you have some final responsibilities to conclude. Instead of coasting to the finish line, consider how your good work might lead to the flourishing of the one who will take your place. 

Maybe you are a college student and you only plan to live where you are for a few years until you graduate. What are ways you can bless your neighborhood or apartment complex in ways that will shape it years after you are gone? Who knows what life-giving qualities could stem from your faithfulness in that season of stewardship! I have learned that if my contentment in life is dependent upon seeing the fruit of all of my hard work, I will end up living a life of discontentment. But I pray that on that day when God brings us to the land of “open spaces” God will allow us to look back and see the springs of water that came from all our hard digging. 

Brother and sister, keep moving and keep digging.