Tuesday, August 25, 2009
When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of the dark. My active imagination told me that every shadow, every blanket, every cracked closet door was something that did not like me. I had two strategies to cope with this fear. The first strategy was to have my little sister escort me up the dark hallway to my room. The second was to turn on every light, one by one, all the way to my room, and then to return to the first light and turn it off, followed by the second, until I could finally turn off the light in my own room and go to sleep.
It is funny how G-d does not allow his children to live in fear. He helps us to overcome it. He helped me to overcome my fear of the Screaming Eagle, a contraption at the ranch that has you lying in a hang gliding harness, suspended 80 feet in the air, until you work up the bravery to pull a string and release yourself on the longest swing of your life. He helped me to overcome my fear of jumping 45 feet off of Scott River Bridge. He helped me overcome my fear of camping alone with no tent in bear country.
That being said, it was not much of a surprise that today I found myself in the single darkest place that I have ever been in my life, forcing myself to turn off my flashlight.
Mt. St. Helens is a famous volcano in the state of Washington, noted primarily because of its unexpected eruption in recent history. One interesting characteristic of volcanoes is that they produce lava tubes, huge underground tunnels that act as an underground highway for flowing lava.
It is in one of these lava tubes, known as Ape Cave, that I faced my fear of the dark. The tube is 1.5 miles long, varying in size from about the width and height of a subway tunnel to only a few feet in diameter in places. As I climbed down the steep stairway that marked the entrance to the tunnel, I was overwhelmed by the darkness all around me. I stood there, alone, in a single shaft of light, with darkness surrounding me on all sides. My puny little flashlight could only penetrate the darkness a few feet ahead.
What if my flashlight and headlamp both quit working? What if I get hurt climbing over loose boulders? What if I panic? Irrational fears almost made me turn back, but before I could, I saw an elderly couple walking up from the easier and of the tunnel. I spoke to them for only a couple of minutes, but it was just enough to get my pride working. I did not want them to know that I was afraid, so I decided to start walking.
Within a few minutes my fear was gone. There I was, completely alone, with more than a mile of subterranean unknown before me, and I was not afraid.
I am so glad that the L-rd brought that elderly couple along. He designed me, and he knew that my pride was the secret to getting me to do stupid and irrational things. He also knows that forcing me to do stupid and irrational things has made a huge difference in my ability to discipline myself and do what needs to be done in life. Even in something as trivial as Spelunking, the L-rd is training me and preparing me for the purpose to which he has called me.