By Brianna Hines
I have been to several caves throughout my lifetime. There is something about giant underground tunnel systems that fascinate me. The largest cave I ever got to explore was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. I got to plan a high school trip my junior year, and I made sure Mammoth Cave was on the docket. Upon arrival, as our guide launched into his bored, monotone presentation of the risks associated with our cave expedition, I started to get nervous. What if I got stuck down there? What if I got lost? What if I fell down some hole and no one ever found me again?
As all of these thoughts were swirling in my brain I vaguely heard him mention something about cave spiders. That snapped me to attention. Cave spiders? What cave spiders? Our guide was letting us know how important it was that we not touch said cave spiders. Of all the things he had warned us about thus far, this one felt the most absurd. Who, in their right mind, would crawl down a claustrophobic dark hole and actually try to touch the oversized leggy creatures they found down there? He certainly had nothing to worry about. I wasn’t going anywhere near those things.
As we descended an unnervingly steep metal stairway into the pit, I had a sudden realization. The answer to my question was: no one. No one would choose to touch the cave spiders. But as I pieced together the other warnings the guide had given us — poor visibility, tight passageways, extremely low ceilings — it all began to make sense. No one would choose to touch one, but someone might accidentally have a run-in with a cave spider. That is the moment when I wanted to turn around, but with 20 other people descending single-file behind me, I had no choice. I proceeded to my impending doom.
Luckily, I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and despite the mocking of my friends, I cinched the drawstrings on that sucker until only my eyes and nose were poking out. It was the only protection I had, nevermind that I could barely breathe. Anyway, about halfway into the tour, when our group had halted for the people in front to start crawling through a portion of the cave, I felt something thump onto the top of my head. Yes. You guessed it. One of those cave spiders had decided to drop from the ceiling right onto my head. You can imagine the screaming and chaos that ensued as 20 or more high schoolers erupted in a claustrophobic underground tube. Needless to say, my cave experience was memorable.
Something else, though, that has stuck with me from that trip was experiencing complete and total darkness. The darkness in a cave is like nothing else on earth. With the flip of a switch, you can be plunged into the most suffocating, terrifying blackness — so black that I couldn’t see the hand I was waving right in front of my face. Even the light of a single match allowed us to see much of the cave we were standing in, but once that flame went out, the darkness swallowed us whole, and unapologetically. There was no escaping it.
Total darkness is a terrifying and disorienting thing. It is the perfect picture of a life lived apart from God’s presence. In First John we read that “God is Light.” Not that God likes light, or even that He created it, but that He actually is light itself. I realize that the author John loved metaphor and symbolism, so I don’t expect to get to heaven and just see a massive supernova sitting on a throne, but being in the presence of God is undeniably like being in the light. In the light, all things are visible, nothing is hidden. Things that were once distorted by shadow and darkness can be seen for what they really are.
As believers, we realize that being in the light of God’s presence is a very good thing. We want our sin to be visible and exposed. We don’t want to hide from our Heavenly Father. We long for a world no longer distorted by the darkness of sin and the enemy. The brightness of God’s presence is inviting and desirable for us.
Not so for non-believers. To them, the light of God’s presence is both terrifying and painful. Just think of how it would feel to have someone shine a flashlight in your eyes while sitting in a pitch black cave. It would be jarring, painful, and honestly would tick me off! When our eyes have adjusted to darkness, it is not easy to come back into the light. Likewise, non-believers grow accustomed to the darkness of their sinful lives. They have adjusted to hiding their sin from God and others, indulging their flesh, and avoiding God’s convictions. If ever they experience the light of God’s presence, their first response is to run back into the dark.
There is hope, though. While stepping out of a cave into direct sunlight is painfully blinding, the light of a single match in the pitch black can be comforting. Thankfully, God has given all of us the chance to get accustomed to smaller amounts of His light before we emerge into the blinding brilliance of His glory in heaven. Until then, we as believers get to be the little matches that help the eyes of non-believers adjust to God’s presence. We get to shine into the darkness of their lives, little bits at a time, and give them a taste of what daylight is. Some may retreat further into the black, but some may be drawn to the light, and if we are faithful to keep shining, to keep walking in the light ourselves, they may follow us all the way out of the cave into the glorious sunrise of fellowship with the God of Light.
Editor’s Note: Join UFC Women today at 9:30 a.m. at Barn (or on Zoom) or at 6:30 p.m. in the church offices for our study of First John. The cost for the study guide is $15. Childcare will be provided for the morning study. If you are interested in joining the Zoom group, please contact Jamie Harms at firstname.lastname@example.org.