My husband and I recently visited Mammoth Cave in Central Kentucky. Any attempted description of the magnitude of that place, and the intensity of the experience of being hundreds of feet within the earth falls dreadfully short of actually experiencing it--I wonʼt waste time trying. But there were several things about this experience that really gripped me that Iʼd like to share with you.
As we prepared to enter the cave, our guide, an African American gentleman, told us of how his forbears had, by the law of imminent domain, been ordered off their land; land that became part of the Mammoth Cave National Park. “My home was just over that ridge over there!”, as he pointed beyond the building that had become the hub of the park. He shared how his great-great grandfather, Mat Bransford, had been a slave tour guide for kings and dignitaries who wanted to experience the cave--an experience where the slave became master! He shared how his ancestors would enter deep within the bowels of the earth there to have “preaching service”, and escape from the sweltering August heat. One sermon was recorded to have lasted six hours!!
As we followed our guide hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, he assured us that we really didnʼt understand the true experience of the cave--as people of yesteryear did. But he did something to help us get a dim idea of what the cave is really like. He gathered our group around him, cautioned us to stand next to someone we knew, hushed us...and turned off all the lights.
Standing there in the cold and pitch black darkness gave an entirely different feel to the cave. I became very, very aware of every sound, and my eyes were searching in vain for some bit of light. Could I find my way out of this place if he left me? Would I fall into some abyss--perhaps what the guides refer to as “the bottomless pit” (actually only about 100 feet)? I was completely at the mercy of this man Iʼd never met before that day.
But then our guide did something very interesting--something Iʼll never forget! He lit a very small candle. The intensity of the darkness there in the bowels of the earth was sufficiently pressed back by one little candle so that I could make out the walls, the ceiling, and thankfully, the floor of the cave. I could faintly make out the faces of my fellow tourists. But most significantly, the light very clearly showed the face of my guide. To me at least, the spiritual reality of this moment was almost palpable.
I donʼt think we really appreciate as we should the light that we have as a people, and Iʼll tell you why. I believe it is because we donʼt really realize just how dark this earth is-- just like I had no concept of how dark that cave was until the guide shut off the lights. Neither do we realize the darkness coming upon this earth when the light of Godʼs Spirit is withdrawn. I know this because we are told that, “the ʻtime of trouble such as never was,ʼ is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us.
The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God.” GC 622
There is another aspect of this experience that is etched in my mind. Being significantly hearing impaired, I quickly realized that if I was going to hear the instructions and teachings of our guide, I had to press my way close to the front of the group. I had to be near that man or Iʼd be left just to follow the movements of the crowd. In that dim light, all of my senses were centered on that guide! Could this be why the Lord allows the darkness of trials in our lives? What a blessing!
How is it with you spiritually, friend? Are you pressing close to our Guide? Are you thinking you can see, when the Lord says that we really are blind? The spiritual lights in this world will soon be as distinct in the darkness as that candle in the cave. Will you be one of those lights? We know that it is at midnight -- the darkest hour -- that the cry goes forth to go out to meet the bridegroom! Are you prepared for the darkness ahead of us? Do you have oil in your lamp to lighten the path before you as the darkness intensifies? What are you doing to prepare?
I can tell you this much, I would have been in big trouble in Mammoth Cave if I had been without that guide. And I am convinced that our problem is that, in this world, we donʼt really realize we are in just as much of a maze, in darkness even more intense, and completely dependent on our Guide than I was in that mammoth cave.
Get ready, brethren. Itʼs getting darker.