It was my last chance to change my mind. I didn’t have to do this; no one was making me.
Even the dark, gray sky seemed anxious. Clouds hung low and the air was cold and drizzly.
The part of me that craves safety and comfort told me to take the easier route and avoid this all together. But the part of me with the adventurous streak that loves once-in-a-lifetime experiences fought back a little stronger.
So I zipped my rain jacket. Rolled my jeans as far up over my knees as I could. Pulled my flashlight out of my pocket. Took a deep breath.
And stepped down beneath the city.
Down, down, down. Farther and farther away from fresh air and light and the chance to turn around. As we descended farther beneath the Middle Eastern city, the air grew more damp and musty. The thick rock walls surrounding us grew colder to the touch. Eventually, we reached water.
And then darkness. Complete darkness.
As I stepped into the water, I clicked on my flashlight. Without it, I couldn’t even have seen my own hand in front of my face, much less the person in front of me or the water that swished around my legs.
I’m not naturally claustrophobic, but something about being so far beneath the ground of a foreign country—surrounded by rock with no way to turn back, no way to escape, no way to get help if needed—got to me.
Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving became the mantra I chanted to myself as my group trudged single-file through the tunnel. In some places, the water only reached mid-calf, while in others, it swelled above my knees. Sometimes the tunnel widened, while at other times, it became so narrow I had to turn sideways.
I didn’t stop moving. I couldn’t. A few times, panic started to rise in my throat, and I prayed for help. To distract myself, I thought about all of the history contained within that tunnel—history I’d grown up reading about in the Bible. In 8thcentury B.C., King Hezekiah ordered the construction of the tunnel as a way to protect the city’s water source from siege:
“When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him.”– 2 Chronicles 32:2-3
I kept my flashlight trained on the water so that I could follow the footsteps of the person in front of me, thinking about how, nearly three thousand years ago, two teams started at opposite ends of the wall and carved out the tunnel until they met in the middle. I marveled at how this crew could accomplish such a feat without the help of modern tools, communication devices, or light sources.
We trudged along for 1,750 feet. Cold and wet. Surrounded by darkness. As fascinating as it all was, I longed for dry cloths, fresh air, and most of all, daylight.
Eventually, we reached the mouth of the tunnel. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I stepped out of the darkness and into the ancient City of David.
Not all that far from where I stood, a carpenter searched for a place to stay and found a stable. A girl delivered a baby on a bed of hay, wrapped him in strips of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough.
Then angels appeared to frightened shepherds, announcing the location of this unbelievable event:
“Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you…” (Luke 2:11).
The City of David. The place prophets had talked about. The place where God Himself entered history on a rescue mission.
The place where light broke through the darkness.
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2
When I stepped out of Hezekiah’s tunnel, I found myself at the remains of the Pool of Siloam, the place where the Light of the World rescued a man held captive by darkness.
“As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. ” – John 9:1-7.
Color and dimension and hope overwhelmed the senses of a man who only knew darkness. A beggar received a priceless treasure.
And two thousand years later, a girl wearing water shoes and clutching a flashlight stood in the place where Light flooded the earth. Over 6,000 miles from where she lived, and yet somehow home.
Maybe you feel like you’re trudging through a dark tunnel with no end in sight. Maybe you feel surrounded or trapped. Maybe you’re hurting or scared or just wondering when the darkness will end. If that’s you, look to the One darkness cannot overcome.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5
This Christmas, look to the One whose birth changed the course of history. Look to the One who gave sight to the blind and opened our eyes to experience His love. Look to the One who is with you in darkest tunnel.
Look to the Light of the World.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light. And there was light.” – Genesis 1:3