The trip holds memories and metaphors best remembered. A bus ride up I-75 toward Sweetwater, Tennessee beckoned adventure as we arrived and hiked up a gentle slope to a hidden hole in the ground into which Blake Cheatham and I and a few more father-son pairs descended.
A large cavern waited to house us for the night at the Lost Sea Cave, but before we would bed down for the night, the group prepared for the reason we came — a curiosity called the wild tour. Curious and adventure should trigger healthy reservation, but we were young and male, meaning willing and uninformed.
Benign at the start, nothing seemed too intimidating. The first clue things would change came when our guide led us through a slender crack in the wall and our friend, shaped disproportionately for the maneuver, revealed to his followers all of his intergluteal cleft (plumber’s crack) when he got stuck. Lead brothers and sisters, always lead.
Meandering, belly-slithering, we descended. I began this mental tug between the words trust and lost. Lost won. We kept descending until we reached a narrow tunnel when our guide, also young and male, stopped us. I heard him utter something, then suddenly, out went the light.
Lost in the black, my retinas were unable to muster the slightest gray, the normal not-so-black picture eyes are prone to produce in total darkness, those electrically charged images I see when closing my eyes. I realized how near dark is to light.
Most of what we visually observe is the interplay between light and matter. But what happens in darkness, even when nature’s retinal gray disappears?
The other day, my friend shared with me he didn’t do church because all those sinners and hypocrites attended. I agreed with him about the sinner and hypocrite part, but suggested he take his thinking a little farther, to question that truth and ask, “Isn’t church a good place for them to be?” My friend was experiencing a little bit of darkness and a few hues of self-induced gray. I suspected his darkness went deeper than his utterance, inside him where most dare not admit their thoughts.
God never seems as immediate or as present as our secret thoughts until we go to Him daily in quiet devotion.
I wondered how my friend got along in his darkness, a place where he seemed separated and stuck, conditioned by dark’s disguised allure. But then, I remembered I spent time in the same cave refusing my utterance, even to God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “God has willed that we should seek him and find his living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, a Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth.”
Light is so near to dark.