There are times in life when you have to trust someone and follow them no matter what. In that cave, I had to trust and follow our guide. Perhaps you have faced medical decisions where you had to trust in and follow the advice of your doctor, and it was a matter of life and death. But there is nothing in all of life like the decision to trust in and follow Jesus. There is no other decision that has such eternal consequences. There is no one else to follow that can lead us beyond the limits of this life. And there is no one to follow who can be more trusted and more reliable in teaching us how to live our lives right now. In the cave, I had to be able to follow the guide to get back out to the light of day. In life, we need to follow Jesus, the Creator of life, in order to know how to get along with each other, how to value the right things, how to make the right choices, and how to have a firm and solid hope for the future.
One time in the cave we said to the guide, “That passage looks interesting. Can we crawl through and go that way?”
“Oh no,” he said, “that space looks big enough, but it is like the funneled entrance to a rodent trap. You can crawl in, but if you get stuck, you can’t very easily back out.” No one wanted that to happen, so we did not challenge his authority or wisdom. God’s Word gives us many similar cautions and warnings and commands that when heeded, leads to the peace and well-being he intended for us. But when God’s wisdom and authority are not heeded or accepted or believed in, and we go our own way, we can get ourselves into all kinds of troubles from which we cannot easily escape.
This is the challenging part. Following Jesus may not always produce immediately visible benefits, and not following or obeying Jesus may not always get one into trouble right away. Oftentimes, it may look like it doesn’t make any difference at all what you do. But here my cave exploring experience can again be instructive. If I would have chosen to not follow the guide, I would not have been in trouble right away. It wasn’t at all hard to go snooping around in that cave. The helmet light was good, there was plenty of room to move around most of the time, and it would have been great fun to just go around and do what I wanted to do, without always listening to the guide and without having to wait for the slow ones in the group. I am sure I could have seen and experienced much more on my own.
But eventually I would be lost and in big trouble. On our own, in caves and in life, we can get only so far. When I was in that cave, there was no doubt in my mind that I would follow that guide; and in life it is wise to not only believe in Jesus, but also to follow him.
Author Ernest Hemingway followed no one or nothing but his own intense desire for action and adventure and pleasure. As a young man he went off to fight in a war his nation wasn’t even involved in. He just wanted to be a part of the action. He ran with the bulls in Spain and led big game hunting safaris in Africa and was a big sea fisherman. No one could out-drink him and he was willing to fight anyone. He was a real man’s man, a rough and tough guy that made Hollywood tough guys look like wimps and fakes. Like Frank Sinatra, Hemingway could say of his life, “I did it my way.” But then, while following no one or nothing but his own passions, Ernest Hemingway lost his way. By his late 50’s he was battling alcoholism and depression, and at age 61 he committed suicide. He was a man of great power and confidence, and he looked invincible. But in one of his books he wrote a line that may have expressed what was going on underneath all that outward bravado. “Life breaks us all,” he wrote.
He was right. We are made of pretty fragile stuff– nothing more than this “frail, frail flesh,” as Shakespeare put it. All it took was a little bullet to end the life of the tough and powerful Ernest Hemingway. Even something as little as a germ can do us in. ‘Life breaks us all,’ in one way or another, and then the darkness falls. ‘But,’ says Jesus, ‘follow me… for I am the light of the world… I am the way and the truth and the life, and in me is abundant life, now and forever.’ Follow Jesus. He shows us the way out of the darkness, and will one day fix all that is now broken.
The power of a man like Ernest Hemingway can look impressive, but human power always lasts only so long. The Bible speaks of a different kind of power, as Paul once wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
John 14:6 — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Matthew 4:19a — “Come, follow me,” Jesus said…
I Corinthians 1:18 — For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
–Book of Common Prayer