Author Dave Lambert tells a short story titled, “A World Without Light” that has stuck with me for two decades. It goes like this:
I probably shouldn’t be down here, Gary thought, twisting onto his back and inching through the damp muddy passage on his shoulder blades. A cardinal rule of spelunkers—never enter a cave alone. But it was his last day in the area, and he hadn’t been able to find a partner. It was now, alone—or never.
He was probably a half-mile into the cave, his only light source the carbon-powered headlamp strapped to his forehead to keep his hands free for climbing. He scrambled out of the narrow passage into a huge cavern so big that his light couldn’t reach the far wall or ceiling. Chocolate-brown stalactites hung out of the blackness; crystals twinkled on a nearby wall. “Wow,” he breathed.
Halfway across the cavern he stopped short—a great pit, a dozen feet wide, yawned at his feet. He kicked a loose rock into the blackness. Silence. He kicked in another, and waited half a minute. Silence. “Guess I will skip that part of the tour,” he said, then listened to his own echoes. He sat at the pit’s rim. His carbon lamp was getting dim—time to put in a new carbon pellet. Out of his pack he pulled the little jar of pellets, opened it, and set it on a rock near him. The he removed his headlamp, took one last look around, and shut it off, plunging the cave into utter blackness. By feel, his eyes useless because of the complete lack of light, he opened the lamp and tossed aside the old pellet. Then he reached for the jar of new pellets—and knocked it over with his groping fingers, spilling the pellets down the sloping rock floor into the pit. If that were not bad enough, in a panic he grabbed the empty jar—and sent it spinning into the chasm below. One or two last pellets rattled down the slope and dropped into nothingness, and then the only sound was the rapid pounding of Gary’s heart in his hears. Utter darkness.
Even in the icy stillness of that black air deep inside the earth, he could feel the cold sweat on his face as he fought panic. No light, no partner, no way out. He sat motionless a minute or two, concentrating on keeping himself in control. Then he reached out very slowly, his fingers moving at a snail’s pace across the smooth rock beside him, all his concentration focused on his fingertips. Something loose there—he stopped and felt it carefully. A piece of gravel. On he groped, slowly—until, at last his fingers found a tiny smooth cylinder: one last carbon pellet that had not rolled into the abyss. Fingers shaking, forcing himself to take his time, he inserted it into his lamp, snapped it back together, switched it on—and the cavern was filled with the most glorious thing imaginable: light. He held up his fingers and examined them, marveling at the play of light and shadow on his skin. He could see. There was light. A moment before he had expected to die. Now he would live. There was light.
True story. It really happened years ago to a guy named Gary. I can only imagine the palpable sense of panic he must have felt. Horrible.
Now, you may be thinking, I know why you’re telling this story—Jesus is the light of the world. Yes, he is; he said so in John 8. But he also said to you and me that we were lights as well. In Matthew 5 Jesus says “You are the light of the world—let your light shine before men.”Christ is THE light and we are followers of Christ, therefore we too have a light to share.
In St. Paul’s letter to Christians in the city of Philippi he reminds them that because of the power of Christ within them, they can shine like stars in the universe. (Philippians 2:14-15) He encourages a blameless and pure life—not a perfect life—but a life so lived in the grace, forgiveness, and power of Jesus that we are bound to stand out. Like the tiny pellet that illuminated Gary’s world before the abyss, our lives can point people to the light of Christ, a light desperately needed in the world today.
I think Dave Lambert’s story has stuck with me for more than just the crazy story he shares and the Scripture verses which one can “attach” to it. It’s stuck because the words of Jesus and the encouragement of Paul are powerful reminders of the difference the light of Christ makes in this world—for our salvation and for our witness to the world.
So, as you turn on and off the lights throughout the day (in safety!), how are you shinning forth for others?
Boldly and brightly,
*Dave Lambert’s story of Gary’s adventure is found in “Jumper Tales” (Zondervan, 1994).