Have you ever been in a cave? Not the tourist trap, sidewalk lined, electronically lit kind of cave; a real, native cave – the kind with headlamps and helmets and bats and mud and darkness…true darkness?
When I was in college, I was a member of a grotto (read: caving club). One beautiful North Arkansas evening we went to a native cave for some fun and exploration of God’s majestic underground creation. The entrance to this cave was at the back of a pond and the stream from the cave was that pond’s water source.
The entrance tunnel was low, so we were duck-walking while wading ankle deep in this stream. About a hundred feet into the cave we startled a group of bats. These are small like flying mice (without tails), and they were everywhere, even landing on my helmet. It was an experience I’ll never forget, but that’s not the part of this trip I want to tell you about.
When we got back in a ways, we decided to do some alone time in the cave and meet back together after a short time. I crawled along through the wet tunnels, gloved hands coated in mud, until I found a place I could sit in silence…alone. Then I did it…I turned off my light, and it was dark. Not the nightime in The country with no moon dark – real dark. This was the darkness you can only experience underground – a subterranean darkness in which, try as you might you can’t see even your hand waving frantically six inches in front of your face. I know…I tried.
If you’ve never been in this kind of cave, it’s hard to imagine this literal kind of darkness, but maybe you CAN understand this figuratively.
As I go through life, I notice that I have to pay close attention to the perspective with which I view the world around me. If I see with a positive attitude, the world just seems to light up, but when I’m pessimistic, darkness reigns. Have you ever been there?
Back to my story…
After a few minutes, I turned my headlamp back on and decided to do a little more exploring before heading back to the rendezvous point. The tunnels were like Swiss cheese with each one connecting to the others so there shouldn’t have been a problem with me getting back.
My eyes were now accustomed to this dim light, this quasi-darkness, this twilight, so I thought I could see well enough. I crawled along at a quick pace, trying to see as much of the cave as I could before time was up, so I was looking straight ahead as I crawled. I let my hands “see” the floor. This is typical for being in darkness – using multiple senses to make up for the deficiency in one of the senses.
Up ahead, I saw a room that opened up, and I got excited. I thought it was a place I could go back and tell my crew about so they could come explore with me. What I didn’t realize was it was a room we had been in already, but that wasn’t the worst part. I didn’t stop crawling until I felt my fingers curl down. Remember, I’m “seeing” the ground with my hands. Suddenly, I stopped, heart racing, realizing I wasn’t on the floor of that room. I was actually on a small ledge about 30 feet above the floor. If I had kept crawling, even one more step, I would have gone headfirst into a painful fall that probably would have killed me. Close call.
What’s this have to do with life?
This event reminds me of what Jesus says in the bible about light and dark.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your while body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
— Matthew 6:22-23
He’s not talking about a literal light in our eyes. He’s talking about our perspective. My perspective in the cave was full of darkness, and it almost cost me my life. I was clicking along thinking I was safe, but I was in terrible danger all along and just didn’t know it.
When we have a pessimistic outlook, we see the darkness in the world, and have a fixation with that darkness. We can see the worst in any situation. How does that make us feel? The darkness consumes us. It’s not pleasant, and it can seriously danger your life. From relationships in family to friends to work, any relationship…even that with your very self can be killed when darkness is in our eyes.
BUT when we have the light in our eyes, we can see the good in circumstances. I have known lots of people with this attitude, and I want to be around them as much as possible…maybe it might rub off on me. When you fix your eyes on what is good, everything can be bright..even family strife and layoffs and church trouble.
Perspective is a choice. We get to choose how we look at the world, and our past definitely influences which view we take…but it is not our jailer. We can choose to see with light in our eyes even when our past has been dark.
I don’t know about you, but I want to have light in my eyes. I want others to see it in my eyes, and most of all I want to glorify God with the light in my eyes. What about you?
When we got out of the cave that night, it was about 10 pm. The sky was clear, and because we had spent so much time in the darkness, when we started looking for the lights in the sky, they astounded us. We were truly attracted to those lights. I have never been able to see so many stars in all my life because I had been in the dark so long.
As you start this journey from darkness into light, you may not be the brightest light at first, but you will grow, and you will find that people are attracted to the light that shines in you…even the smallest bit of light.
Light and dark…it’s truly a part of life on the sharp end.