I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. My husband was standing mere inches from me, but there wasn’t even a hint of his handsome blue eyes in the darkness.
We were in Hannibal, MO – or more accurately – under it.
Inside Mark Twain Cave, we were exploring the caverns made legendary by Tom Sawyer’s adventures. This guided tour was at the top of my must-do list for the weekend, so…into the depths we went.
And that’s how we ended up in utter darkness.
Have you ever experienced a complete black-out? I don’t mean five minutes when the power goes out during a storm. I’m talking about absolute darkness. Not a shred of light. No hint of sunshine. No glow from candle or screen. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Dark.
That’s exactly what we experienced.
The guide took us through narrow passages (all well-lit), pointing out unique rock formations and famous signatures that graced the cave walls. The names included Jesse James, which, the guide claimed, proved that this cave (unlike the dozens of other cave tours that make the same claim) really was one of his infamous hideouts. Hmm…
Anyway, after about a half-mile hike through the tunnels, we arrived at a cavern. Here, our group had room to diverge from our single-file formation and spread out a bit as we listened to our guide spin a few yarns. After hearing about an eccentric mortician who used the cave to experiment with preservation techniques, she informed us we would now be plunged into blackness.
The guide gave us plenty of warning. She stood next to the main switch, waiting for each person to turn off their phones and hide them away so our modern electronics wouldn’t ruin the effect. When we were ready, with one simple flick, she took away every beam of light in the cavern.
In the darkness, she proceeded to explain what would happen if we remained in that state. Apparently, void of any light, our minds continue to search frantically to make sense of our environment. But no matter how wide our pupils get, there is absolutely no light to let in. No shapes will form. No reference points can be found. And, after about three days of this…we will go insane.
At that point, I was thankful for the phone in my pocket…just in case nothing happened when she flipped that switch back up.
But, by and by (I picked up that little phrase from Samuel Clemens himself), we were bathed in artificial light once again. LEDs and incandescents guided us through more passages, until we made our way to the cave exit and into the brightly-lit gift shop.
At the time, I enjoyed the unique (and a little disconcerting) experience. Afterwards, we moved on to the next tourist-trap activity and enjoyed the rest of our weekend getaway in Mark Twain’s home town.
It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that something hit me. I was standing in pitch black for maybe a minute. And even then, I had a light source just inches from my hand.
But…some people live in that darkness—spiritually.
Day in and day out, they are going through life without the light of the Lord.
They don’t see their need for Jesus – his love, his forgiveness, and his guidance.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
Trying to make it on their own, they are stumbling around in the dark, eyes frantically searching for something to fix on. Some grasp at illusions in the darkness. Others try in vain to make their own light. And, just like the guide said each of us would do, some snap.
They are in desperate need of light – even if they don’t realize it. And it’s my job to share that light with them.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16
By God’s grace, I’ve been walking in His light all my life. When I was six years old, I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and “come into my heart.” As I’ve grown, I’ve come to a better understanding of that phrase and what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. But from that moment on, He’s been my light. His spirit lives in me, so even in the deepest shadows, I have light.
Which means I don’t really know what it’s like for people who have been entrenched in darkness all their lives. To not know the warmth of God’s presence. To not have his word as a lamp for their feet and a light for their path (Psalm 119:105). To have no ray of eternal hope to pierce their darkest moments.
But the cave experience gave me a taste.
And it was heart-wrenching.
Lord, help me never forget what it was like in the darkness. Help me let my light shine.