Christmas Cave

Last year I clicked on an ad on the social media, it was asking for seasonal holiday help. The ad stated that a state park cave was looking for seasonal employees for their Christmas Cave. I am not unfamiliar with the cave, I have traversed it a time or two but it is the summertime swimming pool that typically has my attention. I am convinced that pool is the coldest in Alabama. Within the cave there is a lake, it is just barely visible from the walking path of the cave but where it goes, how big or deep it is, or where its water source come from no one knows. Attempts to demystify such things have all reportedly failed. The cave lake has a pump and with it every year the cave personnel pump water into the gigantic swimming pool on the surface, the water there is frigid. I can testify that when the Alabama summer is triple digit temperatures outside the water in that swimming pool is most refreshing to the wilted and weary body. 

Long about the fall they shut the pool down and for years that is where my relationship with the cave state park ended. That was until last winter when I happened across the ad. 

I saw the need for seasonal Christmas help and I was baffled. What on earth would or could a cave need help for Christmas? I read on, they were looking for help to work their Christmas Cave. I paused a bit and did some deductions. After some reading I realized that in the winter the cave is transformed into a light display. I marked seeing the Christmas cave down on my list of things I would like to see and do on my Christmas to do list. 

I love Christmas lights!

I love to look at those lights all aglow. I will literally ooh and ahh at a perfect stranger’s home when I see a display as I drive by. I will seek out “good” lights and I will take the long way home just to get a glimpse of those colored and clear beacons on a string.

My initial trip to the underground lights left me a bit speechless. While the tour is self guided, I had to be prodded along by my spouse who realized my attention was anywhere but on the rest of the light seeing world and the traffic jams I was causing. I was in awe. I kept trying to figure out why the lights seemed so dramatic, so illuminated, so bright and colorful and pleasing to my eyes. I looked closely at the lights, I could see nothing especially unique about them, they could be found at the Big Box or the General Dollar Store but those lights seemed to shine brighter. I rubbed my eyes, maybe it was me, the see-er that was making the difference. I struggle with crisp visual acuity at baseline and the one and only advantage of that diminished eyesight is how beautiful those bulbs appear sans corrective lenses. To my surprise it wasn’t me either. I couldn’t figure it out and it has taken me a year, several trips to the swimming pool, countless hours pondering pursuing, reflecting, remembering and a single bible study question later to figure it out. 

It was early fall, I was studying the plagues of Egypt. I have studied them before and I am fairly familiar with them. I am typically grossed out by the plagues and it is the tenth and final plague that typically holds my attention. Passover was instituted with it and it is the plague that I enjoy studying, it points directly to Jesus and I appreciate it most. That was until the question pertaining to the ninth plague. The question asked “What was the ninth plague?”

Easy, peasy I thought. “Darkness”

I wrote confidently in my book. I prepared to move on,

“When, if ever, have you experienced total darkness?” I stopped.

Immediately in my mind I thought backwards, it was a few summers before. It was July and as hot a blue blazes we had gone swimming in that state park swimming pool and had decided to take the cave tour to cool off even further. I was with several of my favorites that day when we were asked to take a seat on a low rock and turn off our electronic devices.  We were told we were in the “deepest part of the cave.”

The guide began talking about total darkness, how the earth only has two places where total darkness exists, in a cave and in the depths of the sea. I remembered the facts about total darkness and the verbal warning that the cave lights were about to be turned off, I remembered the feeling of heaviness and oppression that came over me as I sat for what seemed like half a day in the dark but in actuality was just a little while. Time seemed to stop in the absence of the light. I remembered that moment when I answered the question about total darkness and for the first time in my life I gave the ninth plague as much press time in my head as I had the tenth.

It wasn’t until this year’s trip to the underground winter wonderland that I figured out why those cave lights shine so bright. 

I was again standing, my mouth agape, neck stretched to its limits, causing a traffic jam, my husband’s hand on my elbow attempting to move me out of the way of oncoming cave light lookers,

“It has nowhere to go!”

My disjointed statement caught my husband off guard, he deduced I was talking about the traffic jam I had caused, he responded, “I know that’s why I keep trying to get you to move.” I said it again, this time adding pertinent details.

“The lights here, they are so much brighter because they have nowhere to go. Apart from them there is total and complete darkness so the lights, they’re brighter in here, more vibrant, more alive than they are outside where the light goes on and on and on until you can’t see it anymore!”

It was a Eureka moment, I knew the verse in John 1:5 that speaks of Jesus, the Light shining in the darkness and overcoming that darkness, I knew that one of the seven “I am” statements of Jesus in John 8:12 is “I am the Light of the World.” I knew it I just hadn’t really understood just what a Light that penetrates total darkness does. That Light does more than just make the way, that Light is the way, and He shines brilliant and beautiful and the darkness is incapable overtaking the Light. The Light has come and He has overtaken the darkness and we, His people are to shine brighter in such darkness, we are to be like Dollar General Store lights in a Christmas cave, beautiful, vibrant, illuminating, and brilliant.

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