I was a 17 year old brat. My mom and step-dad had moved away, leaving me to sleep on a friend’s sofa. The youngest of five, and – by far – the most troublesome of five, it must have been a relief to them to be rid of me. No one knew how to handle me. With little or no adult supervision, a friend of mine begged me to go spelunking… cave exploring with him and a couple of other friends. “It will be great,” said Mike. “There is an underground river in it and a beach that you can only get to by swimming underwater, but no one has ever to reach it.”
“But, three or four people have died trying,” said Bobby. His brother nodded in agreement.
“If no one has ever been able to reach it, then how do you know it’s there?” I asked.
“It just is. We know,” they said.
We drove a couple hours south of town before turning off into the wilds of the Ozark Mountains. Squeezed between two hillsides, the opening was barely wide enough to slither through on my belly. Inside, though, one could sit up. In a lower cavern, I was able to stand up. The sound of distant rushing waters could be heard from below. We crawled through an even deeper passage into a large cavern. The room was cold and damp. At the far end, an underground river rushed beneath a ten-foot drop. A rope that had been tied from the top led into the river and disappeared beneath the black water.
“There it is,” said Mike, stripping down to his shorts. He plunged in, flashlight in hand.
I was frightened. The two other boys followed. I was the last one to dive in. I was afraid of being pulled under by the current and sucked into the rocks where the river again disappeared. I was more afraid, though, of being called chicken. Eventually, I, too, dove in. When I hit the water, my flashlight went out.
The boys, dived underwater. I was left in the dark. They followed the rope underwater and beneath a fallen stalactite. They came up just out of sight on the right of me. I could see the glow of their lights but, around a corner. I was left in the dark. They taunted me, and told me to follow them, but I had no idea how to get there, and no light to guide me. I could make out where they were, but just barely.
At last, I could take no more of their name-calling and dove under the water into icy darkness. I followed the curve of the slimy stalactite, eventually finding the rope, and came up some twenty feet away beyond a large rock. The little mud beach on which they sat was covered with old beer cans and the remains of several campfires. We were not the first ones to make this journey, as we had supposed. This had been a party spot for years.
I have often looked back at that day, and the many summer days after it that the four of us visited that cave with girls whom we wished to impress, and wondered why it is so easy to follow the taunts of peer pressure and so hard to follow the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Why is it so easy to fulfill the desires of the body, and so hard to even hear the leading of the Spirit? Why is it so important to us to please the ego, while we neglect pleasing God?
That summer was all about answering the call of the cave. I learned the hard way that it is not always best to give into peer pressure. Several weeks and several visits later, some of us went back to the cave with girlfriends. The girl I was with lost hold of the rope and was swept away into the rocks before she was able to come up for air. She had a gash on her forehead and was barely able to make the swim out of the water and climb up the rope and out of the cave. Nearly an hour later, when we finally exited the cave, she was covered with blood from her head. The cut took several stitches. It was all her dad could do to keep from pummeling me. I deserved it and would have felt better had he done it.
God eventually took me to the place where I begged Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit and keep me from such temptations, but it took many more near-tragedies and many more years before I heeded His call. The cave has since been block off. The pile of rocks in front of it remind me that God no longer lets me go down to such depths. Instead, He protects me; by filling me with His Spirit, He has given me the strength to… well to live; for what I called living before, was really no life at all.