Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Meditation on Ruby Falls

This is my article which is published in the January/February 2009 issue of "Alive Now." - Steve West

There is a deep, beautiful chasm within us waiting to be discovered and explored.

I recently took my son to Ruby Falls, a magnificent underground waterfall in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had forgotten how glorious a place it is. I love to visit caves because they capture my imagination and remind me of the context of our lives in the expanse of history. For some 200 million years, this chasm had been forming, slowly growing in beauty and yet completely undiscovered until one man, looking for another cave altogether, stumbled into it with a drill and shone the first light in that dark space. I can only imagine what it must have been like to crawl into it the very first time, with fear and trembling, and see the first sparkles of light reflect off the water cascading from the cavern above.

The difference between what was completely obscured, frightening, and dangerous, and what was beautiful to behold, was the introduction of light. The beauty was already there but remained vast, dark, and unseen. Now that it is illuminated, it is a wonder to behold.

Many of us live our lives on the surface of who we are, in the world of doing and functioning and relating. By doing so we can live very good and faithful lives. Perhaps we have no idea what lies underneath the thick crust of our personalities, or perhaps we have an inkling that something is there but dreadfully fear what might lurk in the darkness. So we stay on the surface where the playing field is predictable. Yet by God’s grace, there comes a time of deepening awareness, when we stumble into the dark night of the soul while looking for who knows what. We find a whole new undiscovered realm of spiritual beauty awaiting our attention.

It took me years to discover this interior space and begin inviting Christ into the dark places underneath the surface of who I am, shining his healing and cleansing light to chase away the fear and evil and illuminate the inner beauty God had been creating in me. For although I am a sinner in need of grace, I was created in the image of God.

There is a reason Jesus and the writers of the New Testament loved the metaphor of light. Christ’s light "shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it" (John 1:4). When we become willing to go to that hidden, silent space and invite God in, Christ’s light blesses and beautifies. We can lead active and productive lives on the surface with a transformative connection to our inmost self, our quiet center in God that has been carved out for us since the foundation of the earth. We have always had this interior place of the soul, but out of fear we dared not open it up and explore it. By grace, God cracks open our shell and it becomes a place that Christ's light can fill and make new.

This is the Christian spiritual journey.