Friday, July 11, 2014

Spelunking and Perseverance

In July, 1981 our family camped at Carter Caves in a pop up camper for nearly two weeks. I was 14 years old and had just finished 8th grade. I ran all over this park roaming the trails, touring caves, swimming and having myself a time. One of the reasons I remember when it was is that we watched Prince Charles and Princess Di get married on a small  black and white TV sitting on a table outside our little camper. They were married July 29, 1981.

I remember Carter Caves about as far back as I remember anything from childhood but it was that trip that made it a part of my heart. I fell in love with this place that July. I hiked every step of every one of the main park trails and went into all the caves I could find. 

I re-learned an important lesson about perseverance that week too. I signed up for spelunking tour through one of the caves. The spelunking tours go off the the path of the regular commercial lighted tours. You crawl or your belly through the mud and water and squeeze through tight passages exploring nooks and crannies with nothing but a flashlight. I mean with a name like "spelunking" it has got to be fun!

The description sounded awesome to me even though I had a pretty good touch of claustrophobia. How bad could it be, right? 

Well it turns out it could be pretty bad. I bought my ticket and showed up at the cave entrance with everyone else. I had my long pants, long sleeves, solid shoes, flashlight ready and I was ready to go. By the time the cave guide finished reading all the fine print about all the impossibly narrow passages we would be slithering through I was completely convinced I would suffocate in a deep passage some where IF the whole thing didn't collapse and bury us all.

As the group filed into the cave I slinked into the woods and followed the trail up the hill to the camp ground. Dad and Mom were surprised to see me back so early. I told them how dangerous the spelunking tour was but I could see right away that Dad was not convinced.

My Dad was not going to be a part of raising a bunch of quitters and I already knew that. "Once you start something you can't quit. Quitters never win and winners never quit." 

I pretty much believed it at that time but this was different. I was making a prudent decision based on accurate information given to me by a cave guide probably under 20 years old that was trying to scare everyone to death during this tour. I was saving my life by backing out.

Nope! According to Dad I was quitting and quitting was unacceptable. Plus I had wasted the $1.75 I has spent on the non-refundable spelunking cave tour ticket.

Dad never once said that I had to pay for another ticket and follow through or forever be labeled a quitter. He did drive the lesson home pretty good. I do not even think he suggested that I had to do it. But I knew when I was walking up that hill before I ever told my Dad about it that I would never be satisfied with myself until I spelunked through that cave.

The next time the tour was offered that week I slipped away and bought another $1.75 ticket, gathered at the cave entrance and listened to the impassioned speech about all the dangers that lie ahead. I ignored my cowardly heart beating visibly through my shirt and refused to allow my feet to turn and run. When they opened the gate and started inside I turned on my flashlight and marched with the others toward certain and disastrously painful death.

33 years later I do not remember much about the actual tour. I am pretty sure I was scared in some of those passages, I know I prayed the whole time but I am also sure I had a great time. I do remember how I felt when I walked out of that cave alive into the sunshine. I felt like I could do anything because I was not a quitter. I remember how I felt when I walked into camp covered in mud from head to toe. I felt like a world champion. I pretty much was because I was not a quitter.

I am not convinced that I can do much on my own any more. I have tried and failed way too many times to put much confidence in myself. But I am VERY convinced in the power of determination when combined with trust in God. 

The power of the human spirit is amazing sometimes. Men have completed some huge feats, almost unbelievable tasks because they refused to give up. You combine that determination and no quit attitude with complete trust and faith in God then there is no telling what God can do in our lives. I Know that to be true.

The spelunking tour reinforced that in the heart of this 14 year old boy. I have bought the ticket and went home defeated more times than I care to remember but by God's grace I have raised up to go again. I did not quit.

Not quitting does not mean Not failing. A thousand times no! Not quitting means Not quitting. We may fall and stumble and make a complete mess but we are Not quitting. We are not going to stay down but we are going to get back up again by God's grace and help! Our mind is made up and we will not wallow in defeat and die in despair.

Micah 7:8 Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.


Oh, by the way. The three hour spelunking tour that was $1.75 in 1981.... Is $30 now! OUCH!

Have a great day and do not quit!



  1. About your story...

    You remember the old "Mennen Skin Bracer" TV ad?
    Where the guy slaps his face with the after-shave and says...

    "THANKS! I needed that!"

    My sentiments exactly....

    God Bless!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Bro. Ray. Always good to here from you.



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