While Africa has its Lucy and Wyoming has its dinosaurs, the tiny town of Fossil, Ore., has fossils that everyday people – like you and I – can dig up.
One day earlier this summer, some friends and I drove through hot, dry country to the site – a small hillside behind the high school. After we paid the entrance fee, the on-site archeologist showed us how to dig out the rocks. She also demonstrated how to break them open to reveal the fossils inside. The tools were nothing special – a plain hammer and a simple scraper.
The three of us set to work pulling out bits of rock, cracking them open, and studying their contents. We marveled as we discovered the fossilized remains of evergreen fronds, tree leaves, seeds, nuts, and twigs. It was fascinating to see that maples – yes, maples! – ginkgos, and tamarisks had flourished hundreds of thousands of years ago where now nothing but sagebrush and cactus grow.
I was intrigued. The fossils spoke to me of the eternity of God's creation. The scenery may change over time, but its spiritual nature is permanent and unchanging. I was especially struck that some of the trees that grew then still have a place in today's world. The words of the "Preacher," credited with writing the Bible's book of Ecclesiastes thousands of years ago, came to mind. "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past" (3:15).
The fossils were a reminder in stone that digging up the past simply to gawk at it or to rehash events is not productive. But examining the past for clues as to how to proceed in the present can bring inspiration, hope, and even healing to our lives.
Many of the Bible's accounts were written thousands of years ago, but I've found them to be a steady source of inspiration and encouragement. In fact, the first tenet of Christian Science is "As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 497).
Examining the ancient stories and studying the Bible's inspired words have helped me understand the laws of God so I can apply them to life today. For instance, the account of Elijah fleeing from the wrath of the wicked queen Jezebel (see I Kings 19) helped me when my husband left me for another woman. Elijah was so fearful that he felt ready to die, but God sustained him during his entire journey. I grasped the idea that God, eternal Love, would sustain me, too – and He did.
The story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 1-6) was of priceless worth for a friend going through a prolonged divorce. Nehemiah listened for God's direction at every step. When the enemy tried to dissuade him from his purpose, he armed his workers but kept right on building. When they tried to lure him away from his task, he refused to be fooled. A clear understanding that he was obeying God kept him focused and above reproach. With Nehemiah's example, my friend took her stand for a fair and honest settlement.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote about the importance of understanding God: "Ignorance of God is no longer the stepping-stone to faith. The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal" (Science and Health, p. vii). Turning to the Bible's examples is like finding old friends who say, "We've done it with God's help, and you can, too. Here's how we did it."
They faced trying times, but instead of focusing on the "trying" part, they found what was good, pure, and Godlike and put those ideas to use. Tossing out that which is spiteful, baneful, and of no good use, opened the way for them to experience God's care.
As we do that ourselves, we are cracking open ideas that have been around since the beginning when God "spake, and it was done" (Ps. 33:9). That is a past worth digging into!