Last night, two friends and I drove an hour to a small pull-off at the base of a large hill (a Tennessee mountain). After climbing to the top we grabbed a rope and dropped into a large hole on its southern face. Immediately crawling through a tiny crevice, we found ourselves at the mouth of Indian Grave Point Cave. With nothing more than a lantern and a couple flashlights we headed deep inside, several hundred feet below the surface.
Climbing over rock mounds, squeezing through tiny holes and crevices, and wading in foot deep mud is not my normal idea of a relaxing evening – but it is the marking of a grand adventure. While I enjoy a good whitewater rafting trip, a climb to the top of a mountain with a great view, and am thrilled whenever I get the chance to kayak, I am not what most people would consider overtly adventurous in an outdoorsy way. I have gone “caving” several times, but always with a tour guide in tow. So when a friend mentioned he really wanted to take me exploring a cave he knew, I was excited at what adventures could be had.
Several weeks ago, my friend Eric quoted the legendary RM Ballantyne who is known for his children adventure stories – writing over 80 books in the 1800s. In the introduction to one of his books, The Guerilla Hunters, Ballantyne wrote:
Boys should be inured from childhood to triﬂing risks and slight dangers of every possible description, such as tumbling into ponds and off of trees, etc., in order to strengthen their nervous system…. They ought to practice leaping off heights into deep water. They ought never to hesitate to cross a stream over a narrow unsafe plank for fear of a ducking. They ought never to decline to climb up a tree, to pull fruit merely because there is a possibility of their falling off and breaking their necks. I ﬁrmly believe that boys were intended to encounter all kinds of risks, in order to prepare them to meet and grapple with risks and dangers incident to man’s career with cool, cautious self-possession….
I must confess I fall gravely short of such a description, which is maybe why I thoroughly enjoyed our cavern adventure. After nearly four hours we had climbed over mounds of rocks where the ceiling had fallen opening a new tunnel, jumped over more puddles of mud and water than I can count, crawled on our hands and knees between narrow openings, and saw some of the most spectacular sights (a massive room where the ceiling was over a hundred feet high, impressive rock formations, stalactites, even a couple bats). But perhaps what I was most impressed with was the daring escapade of a ten year old boy.
While wandering around under ground we came across a ten year old boy and his mother. They had been in the cave several times in the past but decided to join our exploration party (Jacob’s mother told us she wanted to be within ear shot of us in case they got hurt and needed help). Jacob was fearless. He would scramble up a large rock just so he could launch himself off; he would slide down rocks like a slippery slide; he found great delight in covering himself head to toe in mud while tossing some our direction; and his feet only knew how to run, no matter how dangerous a spot we were in. Ballantyne’s quote came to my mind several times throughout the evening, clearly enunciating Jacob’s life.
While we may not be as venturesome as Jacob in an underground cavern, what if we had his spirited and intrepid lifestyle but in Jesus? What if we would take a risk and jump head over heels into the King and kings and Lord of lords? What if we would stake it all, do or die, and live with reckless abandon? Read Ballantyne’s quote again – does it describe your relationship and lifestyle with Jesus? Jesus calls us to give up everything and let Him live our lives. Caving might be a momentary exploit, but to allow the God of the universe to live one’s life is the pinnacle of adventure.