Several decades ago I worked as a Resident Advisor in a dormitory at my alma mater. It was a wonderful job that actually prepared me for being a pastor. Resident Advisors were required to do an impressive amount of training that focused on peer counseling, active listening, leadership skills, personnel management, and personal skills development. The training was intended to make us better at assisting the students who were in our care.
All of the RAs in my all-female dorm were teamed with RAs in an all-male dorm under the supervision of a graduate student who was our Coordinator. One year the residence hall leadership decided it would be good to send us to a nearby camp on the weekend prior to the opening of school for some team-building. We hiked, cooked, discussed, listened, and it was all going swimmingly well…right up to the point when they announced that our final activity would be spelunking.
Having grown up eleven miles from Philadelphia in a thriving suburb, this girl didn’t know what spelunking was. But the area in central Pennsylvania where my university is located is well-known for its vast mountains, hills, valleys, and caves. Yes, we were going to explore a deep underground cave together.
This was when I learned for the first time in my young adult life that I have a pretty significant case of claustrophobia. It was not a good time to learn that.
It was in the final passage to the last underground chamber when the darkness overcame me and I froze. Inching along on my belly in a cold passage (where the space was so tight I could not lift my head up without the Pom Pom of my knit cap touching the ceiling) was my undoing. Fortunately, the only person behind me was the coordinator, and she knew what to do. The two of us backed up until we were in a space large enough to sit up and trade places. Then she passed me to catch up to the others and complete the trek. I sat in the darkness alone and had to wait for them to come back out before we could all make our way up to the surface.
I probably wasn’t alone in the ink for more than 5 minutes, and I could hear them exploring the final chamber. But the isolation and fear that I felt seemed to last more than 5 days.
1 John 1:1 (Common English Bible)
1 We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life. 2 The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. 3 What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete.
The message: God is light
5 This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.”
Sometimes on Sundays after worship, someone will ask me where I learned how to pray. I am sure it was in that cave as a frightened nineteen-year old. I had enough “church“ in me to know that I needed the light to come right away to take away the darkness. Jesus sat beside me in the cold and comforted me until it was time to climb back up toward the light.
6 If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. 7 But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.
There are many seasons of life that come at us with the threat of darkness. Losing a child, losing a home, losing a job, losing a marriage…any loss is a dark place to be. But when we turn our faces heavenward and seek out the Light of the World, eventually our eyes will adjust to the dawn of redemption and hope.
So keep climbing, my friends. Set your face toward the light of the Son. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.