Light at the end of the tunnel
By Randy Davis, SIM missionary to Bolivia | Bolivia in América del Sur
I took a deep breath and reconsidered my options. The most appealing choice for me would require us to backtrack several miles to the place we took the shot cut and then climb over a high mountain pass. As easy as that seemed, I couldn't deal with the ridicule from the twenty shoe-shiners I was leading if I turned back out of fear.
So it seemed once again that my pride had left me with only one option, which was to continue the course we had started. That meant venturing into the mine shaft that was in front of me. I stared into the horizontal tunnel and allowed my eyes to adjust to the dark. The perspective illusion made the tunnel appear to grow shorter and narrower as it entered the mountain, and it seemed that before long I would be on my hands and knees and eventually on my belly traversing the passage. I knew that wasn't actually the case, but my increasing anxiety, brought on by my acute claustrophobia, was difficutl to convince otherwise.
Compelled by pride, I mustered up some courage and tentatively entered the cave. The shaft's low clearance prevented me from walking fully upright, adding stress to the already intolerable situation. An occasional glance back to see the reassuring light of the mine entrance was soon blocked by my fellow hikers as they followed me into the damp darkness. There was no turning back now.
My heart racing, I moved quickly to minimize the time of dreadful despair. Soon I could make out an obstruction in our path, and my hands grew increasingly sweaty as a car-sized slab of rock that had fallen from the ceiling came into view. Initially it would have completely blocked the passage, but miners simply dug out paths on either side, leaving the massive stone as a sort of trophy right in the middle of the tunnel. The sight put my nerves again on edge as I peered up to see if another boulder was ready to break loose and plaster us.
Just past the fallen boulder I exchanged my physical fears for spiritual ones as we came upon a miners' altar, fabricated to appease the demons of the mountain by offering sacrifices of alcohol, coca leaves, cigarettes, and in some cases, even animal and human fetuses!
Each passing step fo the voyage brought with it reminders of all that could go wrong. Then, just when I thought I was going to give in to the paralyzing fear, the shaft made a slight turn, and suddenly the light at the tunnel's end came into view! The dangers, both perceived and actual, had not changed one bit. I was still in the mine and not ultimately where I longed to be, but oh, the power of hope as I turned that corner and saw that precious and life-giving light of day!
Soon I was bathing in the sunlight as I stepped hurriedly out of my hunched-over position and enjoyed freedom and victory. The destination was oh so sweet, but I'll never forget that moment, still deep in the cave, when my dark misery changed to sunny hope.