Last weekend I did something I had been wanting to do for several years. I went spelunking at the Lava Beds National Monument near Tulelake, California. My dad was an avid spelunker when I was a little girl, so I knew from an early age exactly what that meant… a cave explorer.
Although I was well aware of what a spelunker did, I had never really spelunked myself until now. I had been inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns in Montana as a teenager, but I don’t think that counts. Guided tours complete with electric lights simply doesn’t cut it. For cave exploration to qualify as spelunking, there must be jet black darkness, unknown dangers and creepy isolation involved.
I soon discovered that the 800+ caves at the Lava Beds National Monument offer all three of those experiences to anyone crazy enough to think it might be fun. There’s no light switches and there’s no park ranger tour guide. Once you descend into the lava tubes, you leave all traces of civilization behind. It’s just you and your flashlight and a whole lot of blackness.
I was managing pretty well, equipped with my bicycle helmet, head lamp and leather gloves. Yet, I quickly learned that constant vigilance is required to keep from tripping on the uneven floor or smacking my head on the ceiling. When I wanted to actually look around, I had to stop moving. And when I stopped moving, I tried not to think about our flashlight batteries. I knew that if something were to happen to our lights, we’d be completely trapped in the belly of the earth.
At one point, when we were deep inside one of the caves, I started feeling a little anxious. I’m not claustrophobic, but the walls and ceiling were closing in more and more. After crawling along for a while on my hand and feet, I had to keep checking in with myself.
I was enjoying the adventure, but I was aware I was pushing my limits. I knew it would be very difficult to make my way back out of the cave if I panicked, so when I felt my anxiety rising too high I knew it was time to turn around.
After exploring five caves over the course of two days, we decided we’d had enough. Having had our fill of spelunking, we returned to the surface of the planet. As we recuperated in an outdoor hot tub at a lakeside resort, I reflected on our underground adventure.
I was glad I had gone, because I like going to new places and doing new things. I even like asking myself to push the limits of my comfort zone once in a while. But, I also saw a valuable life lesson embedded in the experience.
I saw how trusting in my Creator and trusting in myself, by continually checking in with both, will keep me from getting myself into situations that would not be good for me. In this way, trust isn’t about forging carelessly ahead and blindly believing that everything will turn out okay. It is about relying on God’s love for me and my love for myself, knowing that I have everything I need to safely navigate the path of life.
Developing this trust in God and self is absolutely necessary, then. For without it, who knows what trouble we might get ourselves into that would be difficult to get out of!