I learned the hard way as a teenager that I didn’t like small, closed places. I don’t know if I am officially claustrophobic, but I will definitely stick to wide open spaces when given the choice. I was thinking about a youth trip I took with my Church when I was a young high-schooler. Our Youth Leader decided that it would be fun to go exploring caves. The way he described it sounded pretty exciting to me. We were going to enter this particular cave, climb down the winding corridors twisting and turning our way seemingly to the earth’s center. I couldn’t wait.
Finally, the day came and it was off to the cave. After what seemed like an eternity of driving, we arrived at the cave’s entrance. We met our guide who spent several minutes explaining the do’s and don’ts and describing what we might expect. I remember that he warned us about the darkness and the cold and the possibility of encountering bats and insects. He also warned us about small, tight places where we might have to crawl on our bellies inching our way through narrow passage ways. Suddenly, cave exploring no longer seemed so glamorous to me. Several of the older adult chaperones decided to stay back at the Church Van. They would be there waiting for us when we returned. Unfortunately, there was no way I was going to back out. After all, I had my teenage macho image to protect.
At first, the journey didn’t seem so bad. The entrance was large and cavern-like and there was plenty of light. That soon changed. The more we walked, the darker and smaller the cave became. Our flashlights that seemed like floodlights at the beginning, now seemed no brighter than the light of a firefly. I was becoming frightened. It’s funny now, but not only do I remember the darkness, but I also remember the deafening quietness of the cave. The noises of the outside world were non existent. There was no traffic noise. No animal noise. Nothing. Nothing except the occasional breathing sounds of my friends or someone kicking rocks with their shoes. The darkness and the silence were terribly depressing and defeating. I distinctly remember the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness even though I knew that all we had to do was head to the exit and we would soon see the light of day and our chaperones would be there waiting for us. All we had to do was keep marching and endure the helplessness a little longer and we would welcome the sounds of the birds chirping and the trees rustling in the wind. It was the anticipation of knowing without a doubt that we would soon be rejoined with our friends and be back to the real world that kept me focused. There was something about knowing that our journey was only temporary and also knowing that we weren’t really alone that made things easier. Even though I couldn’t hear or see my adult chaperones, I knew they were there if I needed them.
Many, many times in my Christian life I have journeyed down paths that seemingly had no end. I’ve journeyed down paths that were dark and silent where it seemed like I was all alone. The overwhelming feeling of loneliness or feeling overwhelmed and defeated have almost been victorious in my life at times. During those times, without fail, God has shown HIMself in a miraculous, mighty way. At those darkest points, HE would show me a glimpse of HIS light. HE would speak to my heart in a clear voice that left no doubt of the next step I should take.
I learned over time that just because I couldn’t “see” God in a particular situation, or “hear” God speaking to me like I felt like HE should at the time, HE was still there. HIS timing doesn’t always meet my timing, but in the end HE has always been there waiting for me with open arms showing me HIS light.