This past month we had the opportunity to explore some caves near Hope, British Columbia, which was a highlight for many of us. It was a new opportunity and a chance to learn important lessons regarding the faith we share. Before the day arrived there were mixed feelings among many of the participants: excitement sprinkled with fear. For some, the anxiety of crawling through caves all day almost made them decide not to participate, however, in the end, all of us decided to face our fears and step into the dark, cool rocks.
We were instructed by Walden, who gave us basic information about how to maneuver through the tunnels and then gave us time to explore by ourselves in groups of four or five. We had to work together to discover the correct pathways to climb through.
Parts of the caves were only manageable with your back pressed against the top of the tunnel as you slide through on your stomach, hands in front, and feet pushing from behind. Other times it was necessary to lay on your back while attempting to wiggle through a small opening, hoping that it would lead somewhere. There were small drops in the caves where we needed to climb down, and some spaces that had to be climbed up. Through these many challenges we were stretched and grew.
At the end of the day we all gathered in a stone room to debrief and we sang a few worship songs. This was a favourite time for the group as the singing filled the whole space as and we worshiped the Creator. It was a beautiful time to come together and praise the one who made both us and the caves we had been exploring all day.
We talked about how caving is similar to following Jesus. There are parts when we feel stuck, and can’t go anywhere, but we trust in the Lord to see us through the tough times. There are times when we get hurt along the way—bruises, scrapes, and bumps—but still we make it through. Often in life, we aren’t sure where we are going but we trust that there’s a way out because God’s plan is good. It’s comforting because we read in the Bible how Jesus has walked in our shoes and experienced all that we are going through, just like how people went before us in the caves. We can know that He is there for us, aware of the temptations we face, the hurt we feel, and the hard things of life that we go through every day. So when we follow Jesus, we can know that He knows what He’s doing. It was comforting to go through the caves and know that people have gone before us and that these tunnels are completely safe.
We collaborated as a group to maneuver our way through the twisting pathways, and this can exemplify how, on our walk with the Lord, community is important to growing in faith. We can all push each other and hold each other accountable, which is very important to strengthen our relationship with God.
Another parallel between caving and Christianity is that of Jesus being the light of our lives. This is a truth that is expressed throughout the Bible and is an important part of the gospel. When Jesus, the light, is leading our lives, we can only see a portion of the way in front of us, but that is really all we need to see because God knows the big picture. We only need to see the one step that we are taking; Jesus will take care of the rest. And this is the most important aspect—imagine trying to journey through the cave without a head lamp; caving would be virtually impossible without it. Similarly, there is darkness in the world and Jesus is the light. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.
It was amazing to see how something that seemed so scary become so exciting, calm, and fascinating. And, in hindsight, it was an excellent metaphor for the Christian walk. It was so good to face our fears and learn lots through this experience.
– Erika Bosman, Outtatown 2019-20
Remembering the Grand Story
Today marks the beginning of Advent. Starting today, and for the next three weeks, anticipation will build towards Christmas. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation. We prepare to celebrate that God became human. We sit in the discomfort of this beautiful, yet broken world that awaits Christ’s return and the fullness of God’s reign.
Where does this story start for you? If you were telling the story of God-become-human and Jesus’ return where would you begin? In the little town of Bethlehem? In chapter one of Matthew’s Gospel? Perhaps with Isaiah or King David? Yesterday the last of our students arrived back home for the Christmas break. Try asking them where they would begin the story. I bet that I can guess their response.
Find the part of your Bible that talks about baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, angels, wise guys, a donkey, and the inn. Now turn back a few pages. And a few more. And a few more. Turn it all the way back to Genesis, back to the beginning. As our students were reminded again and again this semester, to make sense of the story we must start at the beginning.
It’s in the beginning that we learn of God’s harmonious intention for all creation. We learn that the beauty and the brokenness experienced in this world, which Outtatown students have encountered throughout the semester, stems from God’s loving creation and humanity’s selfish bent. We also learn that God has a plan. Genesis 3 tells us that someone is coming who will undo this mess.
Now, as you tell the story, move through the Bible; through Deuteronomy, Psalms, Jeremiah, and Malachi. Through Mark, Acts, Colossians, and Revelation. It’s a bit of an epic, as far as narratives go. But what a story it is!
I was at a Christmas Eve service last year where the pastor forgot about the middle of the story. He jumped from Genesis 3 to the cross. Beyond the rest of the Old Testament, Jesus lived a lot of life before the cross. He proclaimed that the reign of God had arrived (Mt. 4:17).
Remember these things as you move through Advent this year. Remember to start at the beginning, it’s where the good news concerning Jesus begins and opens our eyes to the beauty and brokenness of this God-breathed world. Remember that Jesus coming is about so much more than the cross, it’s about God’s reign. And remember to feel the discomfort of brokenness, even as we anticipate God’s renewal of all things (Rev. 21:5).
May you know the presence of God as you remember and celebrate that God entered creation this year
– Tim Cruickshank, Outtatown Co-Director