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The Wild Tour

September 26th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 4: 18-19 (NLT)

18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
      which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.
 19 But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.
      They have no idea what they are stumbling over.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead


Light and darkness are two opposite ends of a huge spectrum.  In the literal sense, they are the most easily distinguishable opposites of nature.  There’s as easy as “night and day.”  Sunshine and darkness.  But in the figurative sense, their connotations have endless possibilities.  Even the architects and perpetuators of modern culture and entertainment acknowledge our innate understanding of the differences between light and darkness.  The Force versus the “dark” side of the Force.  Issues of morality that are considered “black” and “white.”  The epic battle the rages between the merits of “dark” chocolate and “milk” chocolate.  Okay, maybe not.

No where else are the differences between light and darkness more easily recognized than from within the recesses of a cave.  When I was a kid, our youth group made an annual trek to Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee.  These caverns are the second largest cave system in the Southeastern United States.  We would hike a few miles in to the mouth of the cave.  From there, the next few miles were on wide, sawdust-laden paths underground.  Electric lights mounted on the cave walls illuminated the way to walk and we would traverse through mammoth rooms with the greatest of ease. 

The cave was so huge that it had its own cafeteria, bathrooms, and sleeping areas.  After arranging our gear in our assigned sleeping areas, we would then embark upon what was known as the “Commercial Tour.”  The Commercial Tour was an easy hike that anyone could take.  The guides led us through the largest rooms of the cave– some of them literally hundreds of thousands of square feet in size.  They were all lit and furnished with convenient paths and handrails.  There was even a movie projected on the cave wall at the end of the Commercial Tour.  Yeah, it was a breeze.

After this tour, however, the real fun began.  We all had to prepare for the “Wild Tour.”  The Wild Tour was nothing like the Commercial Tour.  To even qualify to attempt the Wild Tour, one had to crawl through a tiny wooden box to make sure they were small enough to fit everywhere they would have to maneuver.  Flashlights and hardhats were necessities.  

The Wild Tour entailed some three hours of grueling hiking over jagged rocks and slippery stone-faced walls.  One part was so narrow that it was dubbed the “Fat Man’s Squeeze.”  At times we would lie on our faces in a tunnel just tall enough to belly-crawl through.  With people lying in front and behind you, any hold-up in the front of the line could easily cause your mind to freak out with claustrophobia.  At the end of the excursion, we had to hike through a huge stretch of mud so sticky that it was dubbed, “Bubblegum Alley.”  Many of us lost boots or gloves in that mud.  Simply put, the Wild Tour was nothing less than awesome!

The most vivid mental imagery I have of the Wild Tour, though, had to be the moment that the guide told us a ghost story and then made us turn out our flashlights.  If you’ve never been spelunking (caving), then you’ve never experienced true darkness.  Unlike your room at night where your eyes eventually adjust to the darkness, there is no ocular adjustment in a cave.  You literally cannot see you own hand in front of your face.  A cave is that dark.

Darkness of that magnitude is disturbing, but it does have one upside.  When a light is shown, no matter how small, your eyes instantly find it.  In other words, the darker the darkness, the more effective light is.

That’s the essence of the truth of this passage.  “The way of the righteous” refers to simply doing what God has said to do.  It’s the right path– the illuminated trail.  But walking this path is difficult and many give up because their initial attempts don’t completely illuminate the darkness of their own lives or the world around them.  So, the figure that they’re not “bright” enough and they stop trying.

But we must remember, living God’s way is “like the first gleam of dawn” that “shines ever brighter until the fullness of day.”  A lifestyle of Godly living isn’t instantaneously achieved; it’s progressively lived.  It doesn’t begin fully illuminated, but rather expands like the rising of the sun.  We must not bail on following God’s plan for our lives just because we feel that our lights aren’t yet bright enough.  If we continue to grow in Him, the light will continue to grow in us as well.

Besides, just like the flicker in the cave, your little light stands out in the pitch black “total” darkness of your world more than you know.  A kind word.  A silent prayer.  A compassionate thought.  Never underestimate what caves your life is casting light into or who’s eyes have been drawn to your little flame.  That light will only grow.

Hey, this walk with God is anything from a Commercial Tour.  So get ready to get dirty; this trip’s going to get a little “wild.”



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