What God Taught Me Whilst Mining Diamonds

The west coast (weskus) of Africa is known for many things—magnificent spring flowers, ancient ruins, human fossils dating as far back as early man, a desert landscape that stretches its fingertips into the cold Atlantic Ocean, and long landing strip-like beaches that run as far as the eye can see. It is one of the most unique parts of the world, a small slice of heaven that’s particularly appreciated by those who journey the roads less-traveled in life. People with free spirits and wild hearts frequent the land without ever leaving a footprint, giving each visitor an inkling of a feeling that he may be the first pioneer to step foot on this barren part of the world.

It’s a feeling I used to get when I was working up that treacherous coast. My memories are as fresh as the ocean breeze, and I intend to hold onto them tightly until I close my eyes to be with the Lord. One of the best divers I know (Ruan Le Roux) once told me, “Some of the best things in life are found inside of us—experienced alone. And no one will ever know the fullness of them.” 

I remember calling home as a beginner diver and trying to describe what it was like—how cold the ocean was, how strong the current was, how big the waves were I faced that day. No one could really grasp it, though. I can try and relay stories to you of how we were almost crushed to death by the truck-size boulders that cracked and tried pinning us to the ocean floor, or how the weskus claims the lives of brave and experienced men every year. But the truth is, some testimonies are best left for one-on-one, Christ-led conversations. God can share revelation, and He gets the glory. After all, it was His work all along—His creation, His beaches, His sunsets, His diamonds.

Diamonds? Yes, we were mining for diamonds that had been deposited millions of years ago by the Orange River, and our job was to pump down to the bedrock of the ocean floor and find them. Did we find them? Absolutely.

Perhaps I will share of those times in the future, but today I want to share with you about perspective.

What are you focusing on? What situation in your life is consuming you to the point that it’s all you can think, talk and stress about? 

When I first started mining diamonds, I had no clue what I was doing. I would find myself at the bottom of the Atlantic in 43-degree (fahrenheit) water—with one foot of visibility and completely lost. I’d have no point of reference for where I was and no clue about how I got there. Disoriented, confused and sometimes riddled with fear, the only way I could go was up... back to the place I’d began. 

Making an emergency ascent was difficult since I’d have to unhook the 160-pound harness drooped over my shoulders. But it was necessary to regaining my bearings. Once I made it to the surface and identified a trustworthy marker, I’d lie there and relax. This probably wasn’t one my brightest ideas since I was floating in great white shark territory and looked like a member of the nearby seal colony.

I’d slow my heart rate to a resting point, take a deep breath, then pull myself back down on my airline and into the abyss. I’d find the mouthpiece that fed me air, take a well-earned breath and roll my weighty harness back over my shoulders. The marker I identified at the surface would point me in the direction I needed to go, but this was a seriously stressful maneuver... one that was time consuming and left me tired and out-of-breath. 

The frustrating part was that it was all preventable—the confusion, the disorientation, the fear, the wasted time and energy, the exhaustion, the inability to breathe. I should’ve been mindful of my surroundings. But you see, all I could think about were the diamonds. My focus was small, and my task was big.

By not maintaining a full-range perspective, I missed a lot. I brought unnecessary troubles upon myself. And I put my life at risk.

How often does God tell us to do something, and all we do in return is focus on the end goal? We lose sight of the bigger picture, of the journey itself, and before we know it, we’re lost. We’re in a dark place. We’re confused. Anxiety and fear arise and may cause us to make bad decisions. 

Then we have to go backward. We lose time, energy and breath retracing our steps, but at this point, we have to. We must pay the cost needed to recenter, because staying in a dark place leads to one thing—spiritual death (and in my case at the mine, physical death).

The next time you enter new territory (a new job, a new goal, a new relationship, a new city, and so on), keep these things in mind: 

  • Maintain a full-range perspective. Don’t become narrow-minded and lose sight of where you’ve come from and where you’re going. 
  • Embrace the process. Embrace the process, even if you have to take a few steps back. As my friend Donovan Coetzee says, “It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey”. 
  • Stay centered on Christ. Remember who you are in Christ. Sometimes “re-centering” requires “re-surfacing.” It’s ok to come back up, find the light and get your breath. Without light and breath, death wins.
  • Your life is not all about you. God sends us on adventures for the purpose of His Kingdom, not for our own glorification. We should be outward focused and remember we’re not the center of the universe. God is.

God sometimes allows us to venture into difficult, unchartered territory, even when we don’t know why. Consider the words my man Joseph said to his brothers years after they sold him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Gensis 50:20)

Perspective is a wonderful thing, and a redeemed perspective is even better.

Heart to God.
Spread the Stoke.

Tony

A photo of a worksite where I frequently mined diamonds.