The Shovel… December 29, 2011


Jonathan in Miami

A man found himself abandoned in a hole, with no visible means of escape. Terrified questions attacked his brain: “How did I get here? How do I get out?” The two fears collided for some time, causing him to be immobilized in trepidation until finally he came to his senses and realized that the most important thing was to get out and THEN consider what had entombed him. So he grabbed his shovel, the only tool available to him, and started to work. Hours passed. After taking a rest due to near-exhaustion, he looked around and realized he was no better off. Matter of fact, from his seated position on the ground, it seemed he had fallen even deeper into the abyss. What was he going to do?

He was about ready to give up when a thought came to his mind. He looked at the shovel in his hand and realized that rather than being an aid to his salvation, it was just causing him greater harm. He chuckled a bit to himself at the notion that he was trying to escape a hole by digging his way out. The shovel was not his friend–the shovel had become his enemy. He set it aside and tried to devise another plan, but for some mysterious reason, his brain kept floating back to the shovel, wanting to utilize the old implement. Yes, he was drawn to his adversary. It aggravating him that he was such a creature of habit and his repetition was causing him to not only lose all hope, but maybe relinquish his life. It suddenly occurred to him that unless he could get that shovel far away from him, he would never be able to escape. Grabbing it and mustering every bit of energy he possessed, he flung the shovel into the air. It landed high above his head, out of sight. He rested for a few moments and then rose with renewed vigor, and using his own hands, legs and feet, he crawled, wiggled and climbed his way to safety.


Charlie was trying to quit smoking. This was his seventeenth attempt at de-cigaretting himself. Obviously, the previous efforts had failed. Some of his expeditions into becoming smoke-free had lasted as much as four days–down to as little as four minutes. He didn’t understand why he was unable to escape the nastiness and unhealthiness of the practice. In most areas he was a pretty strong fellow, with good resolve, but when it came to those little white sticks, he was as weak as a kitten. But it was Thursday and it was time to try again. Three hours later he lit up. What was wrong with him? He drew a deep breath and with that intake of air, he was granted a revelation–because what he took into his lungs was the fragrance and overwhelming odor of tobacco. He understood in that moment that even though his brain and soul were intent on quitting smoking, his atmosphere, including the air he breathed, was filled with the intoxicant.

So he scrubbed his house, opened up his windows and sprayed all of his surroundings with Febreeze. In the process, he discovered that his abode was littered with memorabilia to the habit–ash trays, match books, cigarette lighters, abandoned packages of cigarettes, cartons hidden in cupboards–all luring him into his addiction. He grabbed a big trashcan and began to throw things away. Before he knew it, he needed an additional trashcan to complete the effort. But finally his house was clean and free of all accoutrements to the deadly intake. He even had to throw away that ashtray he kept in his bathroom for his morning cigarette–the one made by his young son in kindergarten.

He recommitted himself–and this time lasted for five days, until he was sitting in his car and was overwhelmed by the desire for a drag. What was wrong with him? The light bulb went off in his brain. He had not cleansed his vehicle. It smelled like freshly lit-up tobacco, and the ashtrays were full of abandoned butts. He quickly drove to a nearby car wash and paid fifty dollars for the car to be cleaned, detailed and the ashtrays to be absolved of their smelly contents. He drove away and never smoked again. He realized that sometimes it’s not enough to desire to overcome your problem–if you’re still surrounded by the things you want.

It’s a valuable lesson.

The truth of the matter is, if you find yourself in a hole, guilt is useless, questioning is nearly comical and frustration rings a bit of self-righteousness. We, ourselves, dug most of the holes that imprison us.

And the only way to escape is to acknowledge that fact …  and throw the shovel away.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

%d bloggers like this: