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An Adventurous Archeology

January 29th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 11: 27 (NLT)

27 If you search for good, you will find favor;
      but if you search for evil, it will find you!


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

My undergraduate degree is in History, so I’m pretty fond of relics.  Archeology is the search for “history in hand.”  Everything changes when one actually touches the agricultural tool of an ancient farmer or the aqueduct of the Romans.  Suddenly, what was once purely hypothetical and imaginative becomes more concrete and realistic.

Archeology isn’t for the weak-minded or the lazy, though.  I cut my teeth on the Indiana Jones movies and in his stories, the archeologist is swinging across huge ravines with damsel hanging on for dear life amidst a swirling storm of indigenous, poison-tipped arrows.  These missions are always full of danger and adventure and the object of notoriety is always priceless and shrouded in mystery and intrigue . . . the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grails and what not.

I can only imagine the surprise of the thousands of young and inadvertent Dr. Jones recruits over the years who dare to delve deeper into this science only to discover that it is mostly . . . well science.  Years of expensive schooling.  Hours upon hours of grueling study of ancient cultures, languages, and history.  And the fateful and highly anticipated day that a young archeologist actually gets to “practice” in the field finds him or her digging for hours in a mud pit and emerging from the hole with nothing but a sore back and blistered hands.

Real archeology, you see, isn’t very flashy.  The reason that most people don’t know this is that the only time an archeologist is given clout or publicity is when a “flashy” discovery is made.  King Tut’s tomb or the Dead Sea Scrolls.  But for every once in a lifetime discovery that is made, there are thousands of other lifetimes spent painstakingly dusting away micro-amounts of dirt and debris from some ancient piece of pottery that has no flashy significance . . . it was just someone’s water jug.  

Water jug, huh?  Yeah, now that sounds exciting!

But to the true historian, sociologist, or archeologist, the discovery of anything ancient is significant . . . especially the everyday items.  No, they may not make headlines like a famous ossuary or a plank from Noah’s Ark, but it is the everyday items that reveal to us the true nature of ancient cultures.

So even though an archeologist may spend years of his life digging up little else than building foundations, children’s toys, and pots and pans, the significance is not lost because of two very important reasons.  The first is that the real archeologist understands the nature of his or her craft: to search.  If you don’t like searching, then go be a meter maid because this particular science requires extensive study and remarkable patience.  The science is found in the search for little things.  

The second reason is that the true scientists embraces the value of the little things, knowing that they reveal to us the true nature of the culture in question. No disappointment here . . . searching for little things is the goal.

Such is true in our spiritual development as well.  We are inclined to sensationalize the process and focus our energies upon those who accomplish great and flashy things in ministry.  If it’s not about other people, then it’s about ourselves and our pursuits.  We want huge revelations everyday from our Bible reading and prayer time and we walk away disappointed if  all that seemingly happened that day was prayer for our family and needs.  Where’s the excitement here?

It’s right there; we just don’t always recognize it.  Indeed, God does shower us with moments of intense reflection and supernatural intervention.  We long for these moments and hang our hats upon them.  However, we can’t let these be our sole and selfish expectation of God.  In other words, we can’t walk away disappointed that the divine didn’t line up with our whims.  For today, He may just want us to embrace the “water jug.”

We must change our understanding of this lifelong search and find value in the daily, seemingly tiny discoveries that we are making.  One verse here.  One attitude there.  We are revealing the mysteries of God through these painstaking spiritual “digs.”  

We are called to daily, spiritual archeology . . . not Indiana Jones style, but realistically.  Searching will be the norm.  So, this passage speaks volumes: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” Simple enough, eh?

So grab your Indiana Jones hat and whip . . . and your little toothbrush and textbook as well . . . because the excavation before us will require an attitude of adventure, as well as perseverance and patience.

And don’t discard the “pottery” as boring or insignificant . . . spiritually, of course.


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