Spelunking Expeditions

Long ago and far away, when I was a young school teacher at Baymonte Christian High School in Scotts Valley, California (south of San Jose), I accepted an invitation by two other high school teachers to go spelunking. The three of us plus one high school senior headed out in “exploration clothes” (jeans and old clothes that covered a person well).  The caves were nearby in Santa Cruz.  The entrance was so obscure that it was not even noticeable to passersby. “Where are we going?” “What are we doing?”  Lying on our stomachs, we slithered through narrow tunnels — first forward, then smooth turns to the right and left. We stayed close at each other’s heels.

It was either dark or totally dark. At one point, I felt no one ahead or behind me. The tunnel walls surrounded me with little extra space. Suddenly, there was no way to move ahead. The wall was in front of me and surrounding me. I breathed deeply, and then it was as if the breath was taken from me. I felt a surge of panic. I’m trapped!Then I reached above my head and discovered that the snaking tunnel had taken an abrupt turn directly upward. I took another breath, reached my arms up as if to ask my father to pick me up, and scooted my body northward, pushing myself  with my elbows and knees.  How long were we in that tunnel? I don’t remember now. But when it finally opened upon a cavernous room, my lungs filled with relief.

I peered at my dear friends and discovered that we were dusted with dirt. All smiles and laughter and panting breaths. What an adventure here on the coast of California where earthquakes are common. Glad we didn’t have one while in there, or we would have become trash in a trash compacter. I have two pictures somewhere of the four of us happily peppered with earth. Youth!

Exploring the crevices and caverns of our hearts can be like spelunking. It”s dark in there. The paths take unexpected turns, and the space contracts and expands. We reflective type of people do a lot of soul-spelunking. We have to be careful of the tendency to indulge narcissism rather than a healthy facing of one’s one identity in relation to a growing understanding of God’s identity and heart.

Spelunking the heart of God presents more of a contrast than a comparison. It’s not an inward or downward dusty crawling in the dark. It is an outward, upward purifying flight in His Light — Christ, who is the light of the world. On wings like eagles.

The best purpose of soul-spelunking is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He renovates our hearts — hearts once hard and difficult, now tender and porous, drinking in His life. New Creations in Christ. Do the shapes, sizes,  coloring, and designs of our hearts  indicate that we have morphed from dowdy caterpillars into artfully winged monarchs?  I trust so.

Categories: Being Like Jesus, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Spelunking Expeditions

  1. Mark

    When were you in Scotts Valley? I spent the summer of 76 in Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. Stayed with a wonderful family–the Culwells–while on a project with Campus Crusade.

    • kltolsen

      I lived in Scotts Valley from 1978-1980. A Culwell family was highly involved in my Christian school, and I think some of them still are. Might be the same family.They are wonderful people! These two years were wonderful for me. I met Paul, my husband, at a Bible study during this period. We love to return to Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz. Eric’s Deli is our favorite eating spot! Glad to have a location in common!

  2. Martin Zuidervaart

    Karen, as one of the two teachers referenced as your partners in this adventure, I remember all of the details you posted except for the cavernous room. I can only recall the oppressive dark, narrow tunnels we slithered through like snakes. What a workable extended word picture for the Holy Spirit’s
    spelunking of our hearts and the formative process of growing our characters. By the way, Eric’s Deli is also a favorite eatery of mine! Marty

  3. Martin Zuidervaart

    Karen, your warning about the “tendency to engage narcissism” reminds me of one couple who recently left our church for another because of our new focus on discipleship and the “inward turn” to let the Holy Spirit do deep character renovation. He accused us leaders of “scab picking” and “navel gazing.” (: >) Marty

    • kltolsen

      Thanks, Marty, for your replies — two posted plus an email response! So good to hear a response from another member of our team! I wanted to talk with you about it before I posted, but my schedule is so full right now, and my posting was overdue, so I just went ahead with the posting. Spelunking was a memorable adventure, wasn’t it? Slithering blindly through those tunnels was daring! And you don’t remember the cavernous opening? No matter, the spelunking experience provides a metaphor that we can continue to explore as we explore growth in Christ from the inside out. Glad you found it meaningful.

      Ha! So Louis found a spelling error — heal rather than heel! So good, so good!! Of course, I am not an error free person (as if I needed to make an announcement), but I try to keep errors to a minimum. Makes me think of Mary Poppins — “Practically perfect in every way!” NOT. But I have the Holy Spirit, yes, even the Holy Trinity in my life to empower me! John 15:5 reminds me that without Him I can do nothing. Nothing. Col 1:17 tells me that He holds me together! Yea! Now I’m getting ready to preach, but I need to be getting ready to go out for breakfast with a dear friend!
      Say, Louis! Why don’t you send a response now and then!!! Would love to hear from you on the blog, even if it’s just to tell me I’ve caught the wrong heel!!

    • kltolsen

      Thanks, Marty. Yes, yes. So sorry that a member of the body so misunderstands your church’s intentions. Discipleship is a daring, diligent, and demanding path. Scabs do get picked. Yet, God’s renovation goes far deeper than scab picking. If God is to transform us, He will use pain, even deep and prolonged pain, as the main coinage in this broken kingdom’s monetary system. Painless growth is for a kingdom to come! Praise God! Maranatha! Even so, come Lord Jesus!!

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