We hadn’t gone far into the very, very long bike tunnel when the inky blackness started closing in. It hit me first. My husband was ahead of me, although I could only hear the muted sound of his footsteps crunching on the gravel beneath his feet. We had heeded the sign entering the tunnel: “Walk bikes through this tunnel.” Now we were glad we had. The other end of the tunnel was a pin prick of guiding light. In a flash, it suddenly disappeared without warning, leaving us disoriented and confused. Unbeknownst to us at the time, a cloud cover above had cast a shadow, hiding the small visual of light. Now, halfway through the tunnel, I began to panic. As I lifted up my hand an inch from my eyes, I saw nothing but darkness. A quick look to the rear gave no hope either. The tunnel entrance had all but disappeared in an instant. Fear set in.
Never in my life have I experienced anything as unnerving. The sound of dripping water eerily plunked overhead. I stumbled into my bike and then into my husband as the darkness enveloped us: front, back, head, feet, left and right. I felt as if I was going to topple over
We stopped. Since we were literally blind to our options, we had to. We had arrived at a decision point. What do we do next? Go forward and try to get to the light, or retrace our steps and attempt to get back to where we had started? Our voices reverberated down the tunnel. The sound was taunting as it returned, intensified as the echo bounced around on the rocky surfaces.
Lost my way
Have you ever found yourself in a spot like this during a tough time in life? Things are closing in on you. You don’t know what to do or which way to go. You stop. You call out, and no one answers but your own frightened voice. You do not know what to do next. Your heart starts to pound from fear and your mind becomes paralyzed with doubt.
If you answered no, then all I have to say to you is, get ready. At some point in life you will find yourself here. If you answered yes, then you can identify with the feeling I have just described. What if someone you love is suddenly taken from you? Perhaps your child is deathly ill, or has made a life-altering decision you cannot fix. What do you do? Sadly, the unthinkable things in this life happen to real people, just like you and me.
In my moments of despair, indecision, sadness or trauma, while the world seems to be getting darker and darker, I often feel as if I have lost my way. Thankfully, I know there has always been a bright light alongside me, too. This light is a constant and will never fade. It's God’s love for me (and for you) in Christ.
Like the inky blackness that engulfed us in the tunnel that day, the love God has for his people is all-encompassing. Unlike a darkness causing fear, God's love wraps us in a blanket of comfort and hope. In the tunnel of despair, God’s love is wider than my doubt, longer than my fear, higher than my hopes and deeper than my sorrow. In Ephesians the Apostle Paul reminds us of this amazing love.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19
After we stopped and debated what to do, the sun must have come out, because all of a sudden the pinprick of light returned. Even though progress was slow at first, we walked our bikes toward the tiny aura of brightness. No longer afraid, I began to sing hymns out of sheer joy at being rescued. The pin prick became a dime, then a nickel, then a quarter. Finally we could speed up and quickly put the darkness behind us. Thank you, Lord!
The practical lesson learned? Bring a flashlight! The spiritual lesson learned is so much more important: when in doubt and darkness, never forget how unshakable God’s love for you in Christ has been and forever will be. In dark times, stop and remember what Jesus says.
“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
By the way, if you want to have the same thrill of biking through these tunnels in Wisconsin, search for the Elroy-Sparta trails. Over one hundred years ago three railroad tunnels were hand-hewn through solid rock, ranging from 1,694 to 3,810 feet long. They were completed in 1873 after one and a half years of digging. For 90 years they served as a thorough-fare, shipping cattle and goods from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and back again. In 1971 the rails were turned into recreational trails and since then have been enjoyed by hikers and bikers.
Oh, and one more thing. Do remember your flashlight. It will make the trip much less scary!