There’s dark and then there’s DARK.
They are not the same thing.
My family learned that lesson on a trip to Huntsville’s Cathedral Caverns a while back. The natural cave system is part of an Alabama state park and offers a unique experience for us surface-dwellers.
A concrete pathway with railings and lights provides a trail for guided tours of the stunning formations of stalactites and stalagmites below the surface of the small mountain. It’s an easy walk in and out along the manmade path, giving access to those of us who would otherwise not venture into the unknown below our feet.
As the tour nears the back of the cave the guide mentions she will be turning lights off behind the group to prepare for one of the high points of the experience. When the group reaches the turnaround point at the far end of the tour, it’s time to learn about true dark.
Far underground and far away from the cave’s entrance, manmade light is the only light there is. As our guide talked about the light pollution we experience every day and how rare it is to experience a true absence of light before reaching for a small switch, I noticed my two 12-year-olds inching closer to me. Just before the switch was thrown I felt four arms begin clinging tightly to my own.
Suddenly we were in darkness so deep I could literally not see my hand in front of my face, yet I could feel those arms holding on. Soon enough the lights came back on and the tour continued, but in that moment I was reminded of something very special.
When they knew something different and a little frightening was about to happen, my boys grabbed on to me. It’s exactly what I’ve taught them to do both literally and figuratively. As their dad, my job is to make sure they feel safe and secure. It’s what parents are supposed to do, no matter how difficult life may be.
My wife and I work hard to ensure our kids feel safe, even in the difficult times we’re all facing these days. We don’t hide them from reality, but we make sure they know every day they’re going to be protected and provided for. Whether it’s a problem at school, an issue with friends, or worries about the future, I always want them to know they can hang on to me when things get scary and dark.
As adults, we too have to find something to cling to in the dark times. I’m blessed to have a wonderful wife who remains my rock through life’s storms and I have a God who I know is bigger and stronger than the worst life can throw at me. When I feel the darkness coming, I hold on to her and to Him and know I’ll be okay.
We can never avoid the darkness, but knowing where to turn and what to grab on to will always make the difference as we wait for the light to return.