GETTING LOST IN A HOPELESSLY DARK AND FLOODED CAVE


By Akin Ojumu

Exactly three years ago, twelve Thai boys, aged between 11 and 16 years old, and their 25-year-old coach, members of a local football academy in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand called the Wild Boars, went missing inside the nearby Tham Luang cave. Returning home from football practice, the boys and their coach decided to take a detour, away from the well-trodden path, into the dark and flooded interior of a complex cave. Perhaps enticed by the pull of youthful exuberance or the allure of promising thrill of doing something really stupid, they ignored the sign at the entrance of the cave that warns visitors not to enter in the “rainy months starting in July.” 

It took only a few short distances into the belly of the cave before the rising floodwaters and the fear of drowning alone in the dark, put a pall on all the promised thrill and excitement. Lost, confused, and soaking wet, and left with nothing but the sheer instinct of survival, the beleaguered lot crawled deeper and deeper into the cavernous labyrinth, in search of a dry place away from the flood. 

It wasn’t until 10 days after they went missing that they were found 3 miles deep inside the cave, cold, hungry, but alive. As a result of the treacherous flooding condition inside the cave, compounded by narrow passageways and low oxygen levels, the efforts to rescue them took long and meticulous planning. The cave rescue mission tasked the limits of even the most adroit cave rescuer.

As you can imagine, the families of the boys were anxious for their rescue and safe return. Candles were lit, incense burnt, and prayer vigils held in the community, according to Buddhist religious rites. As the citizens of Thailand beseeched their gods and deities for help on behalf of the boys, the Thai government quickly took over the rescue operations and assembled a crack team of experts in cave rescue that included members of the Royal Thai Navy Seal – one of whom lost his life in the rescue effort – supported by international organizations with expertise in such daredevil rescue operations.

As the families prayed, and the government planned, gawkers of every stripe, like carcass hungry vultures, gathered to do what gawkers do best…gawk, ogle and feign concern. Among these unsavory mobs were local and international news media who worked extra hard to beat one another to the breaking news.

As I read and watched the news report of the search and rescue of the Thai boys, I couldn’t help but see some parallels between the ensuing drama and certain truths about life in general. I’m now going to share a few of them with you.

1) The Inside of the Heart of Man is like a Dark Cave
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 Message Bible).

The heart (soul or mind) of man can be likened to the dark flooded cave in which the Thai boys were left trapped and imperiled. The inside of man can be a treacherous place. It is a cavernous labyrinth full of pitfalls and deathtraps; a tomb full of dead men’s remains. You can live with someone for 100 years, and never be able to tell what they really are on the inside. It is impossible to predict what a man is capable of doing, when subject to a certain set of unique circumstances.

2) Some Caves are Simply Best to be Left Alone
Not all caves are safe to be explored. Some are simply meant to be avoided at all cost. The same goes for man. As much as we have been asked by God to love everyone, God has not sent us to everyone. Our cycle of influence has a finite circumference, and it does not include the entire human race. It is a wise thing to know the boundaries of our jurisdiction and the limit of our sway. 

3) The Dark Cave is a Treacherous Place
Venturing into territories that God has not sent us is like going inside a dark, narrow, and flooded cave. It is always fraught with danger. Whenever we venture outside of our jurisdiction, we endanger ourselves. God has a lane for everyone. Good things happen when we stay in our lane. Straying off into somebody else’s lane often leads to disastrous outcomes.

4) Watch out for the Warning Signs
Just like the warning sign at the entrance to the Thai cave, there are visible signs at the entrance of the hearts of men. They are signals that caution us when we are heading into destruction. These signs warn us of the impending dangers that lurk within. Oftentimes, however, we choose to ignore the warning signals. For a variety of reasons, we occasionally snooze the alarm bells. Pain and regrets are often the end results of the choice to ignore the warning signs God has placed in front of the cave.

5) Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves
Recently, an elderly person and I had a conversation about human relationships. In the opinion of this elder, to avoid being hurt and disappointed, when dealing with people in general, it is wiser to not fully commit yourself. The elder counseled me to always hold back and warned me against giving all of myself under any circumstance, when relating with people, because people can’t be trusted, and people will always disappoint. His advice to me was to commit only an itty-bitty fraction of myself in my daily interactions with other people if I want to avoid the disappointments and hurt which will eventually come.

While I do not fully agree with this elderly person’s counsel, there’s truth contained therein. Everyone deserves the benefit of doubt. To get the best out of any relationship, we must be willing to give our best. However, because of the unknowableness of the soul of man, it stands to reason to relate with man always prepared and on guard for whatever may come. To avoid being caught in the trap of the darkened soul of man, we are called to be “…wise as serpents and harmless as doves…”

6) You Never Know Your True Friends Until You Hit Rock Bottom
In the era of social media, where some get as many 1 million friends on Facebook, 10 million followers on Twitter, and 100 million subscribers on YouTube, the true meaning of friendship has gotten buried under a mountain of likes and comments. Those who equate the number of well wishes received on social media as evidence of affection of virtual friends have not yet experienced calamity. It’s on the day of your affliction when you’d realize who really is your friend. On the day catastrophe comes knocking on your door and adversity pays you a late-night visit, your virtual friends will take to cyberspace and the fair-weather amigos will take a flight. But a true friend is one who will throw you a rope when you hit rock bottom.

7) The Value a Nation Places on Human Lives
Every so often, for the briefest of moments, the window to the soul of a nation is prised open by the strong hands of Divine Providence, flooding it with light, and revealing to all that which lurks deep inside its dark interior.

There are many ways to gauge a nation’s value for human lives. The timeliness, fastidiousness, and zealousness of a government’s response when tragedy strikes its citizens is a good indicator of how much premium the people put on life. In a nation where there’s regard for human life, the government responds with speed, great care, and fervor whenever disaster strikes. Such a government leaves no stone unturned until the calamity abates, and precious lives are saved. And the reverse is true for a nation where human lives don’t amount to much.

8) The Gawkers Can’t Help Themselves
There are always gawkers camped at the mouth of the cave of your calamity. They are like hovering vultures, ready to swoop in to feast on the carcass of your tragedy. Feigning sincere concern for your well-being, they raise false prayer points on your behalf, and pray with the loudest voice for your case. At the same time, they feed the rumor mill with tall tales of your misfortune. These people derive pleasure from your pain, and a tingling sensation of schadenfreude runs down their spine whenever they see you suffer.

Worse still, it is often not enough that these scavengers of bad news prance on your misfortune, they trip over themselves to be the first to spread the news of your demise. However, in their hurry to break the news of your fall, what these rumor mongers and bearers of false tales fail to see is the hand of God turning the situation around in your favor. Blinded by their ill-will, they are unable to discern that in all things you are more than a conqueror.

The Thai government went to great lengths to save the 12 boys and their coach from the cave. They worked night and day and spared nothing in making sure these innocent boys did not perish alone in a dark lonely place. After 17 excruciating days of massive international effort, all the boys and their coach were safely rescued from the depths of the waterlogged cave.

It is my prayer that you will never find yourself lost inside a dark and narrow flooded cave. And may help come your way on time, should you ever get trapped in the dark caves of life.

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