Claustrophobic – Who Me? Never!
One of crazy things I remember doing as a kid was to climb down into sewer and water drainage tunnels and crawl through them to see where they would lead me. Some of the drainage pipes were the large corrugated steel man size under-the-street ones which led from one open gully part of the hill to the other open gully on the other side of the road. So they were tall enough to stand up inside, stooped over a bit, and only about fifty feet long. Fun to hide in, but no challenge to an adventurer.
No, it was the small concrete drain tunnels that I liked to crawl in. These tunnels would be just a bit larger than shoulder width and could be hundreds of feet long. I would find an opening to one of these drainage tunnels in one of the gullies and start crawling, head first, wriggling my body to squeeze my way down the tunnel until I got to one of the junction rooms that had rungs on the vertical tunnel that led up to the manhole on a street level high above.
Looking back, I know it was rather insane doing what I did. I was more than 20 feet underground, crawling though drainage pipes that if they had been a couple of inches in diameter smaller I would have been stuck there like a cork in a bottle. And just imagine if after crawling for hundreds of feet head first I had come to a dead-end. No way to turn around. I would have had to wriggle backwards the same distance to get out. Needless to say, I never told my parents about this adventure, at least not until I was an adult and moved away from home.
And I have had the same fascination with caves. I’ve only gone into a few though, the most famous ones being the Mark Twain caves on the western edge of Illinois, and the cave in the center of the town next to Mount Rushmore. I loved crawling through tight spaces, and climbing up or down on areas where there were just toe and finger holds.
So being interested in caves, I looked up in the Bible references to caves and I found some interesting connections in most of the verses. Due to the rocky nature of the ground in the land of Canaan, one of the primary uses for caves was to use them as tombs and to bury the dead there. The second main use for caves in Scripture was to use them as hiding places. Samson hid after killing Philistines, David his from King Saul who was trying to kill him. And Elijah hid from the wicked Queen Jezebel.
Even today, we jokingly talk about men retreating from the stresses of life and going into “their caves”. So caves seem to be places to go to get away from others and anything connected with life and real living that is perceived to be a threat. If this is even half-true, then it forces me to ask myself this question, “Why did I like to spend hours on end crawling around down in tunnels and caves underground?” A big part of me says, “It was wild, crazy and fun. It was an adventure!”
But another part of me which is honest says, “I didn’t know how to handle my life (which involved being picked on by my peers, made fun of at the church youth group, and not being paid attention to at home by my family). So I think I can say now that partly I was running towards an adventure, but I was also partly running away from the troubles I was having in life.
Today, I don’t crawl through narrow tunnels. And I don’t know if I can climb through any more caves. But I still can retreat from life emotionally and crawl into a cave deep in my mind. I must resist this, and work with people, not avoid them, and most of all trust in God to help me face whatever issues I need to deal with in my life.
So how about you? Are there caves you run to which you hope will keep you safe from the troubles of this life? I hope not. And believe me, eventually you have to come out. And whatever you may have run away from, in all likelihood, it is still there, and it may have grown bigger and worse than when you first went to hide in your cave. May God give you the strength you need to face your world.