During my adolescent years I sometimes dreamed of running away from home. I made a plan. I would slip out of my window one night, retrieve my backpack from the barn, and then hike cross-country, avoiding towns, until I reached the hills. I would search the hills until I found a cave that I could make my home. The cave would be perfect. From its mouth I would be able look out over the faraway farms and the road that wound through the valley. I would see anyone who approached me, but no one would be able to see me. In my cave, I would be safe.
I never did run away from home, but I managed to find the cave anyway. It was right inside my own head. I made that private place my fortress, my sanctuary. In my cave, I felt safe.
Here’s the thing about caves: they feel much safer than they really are. Sure, you can hide in a cave, but if your enemy discovers where you are hiding he can trap you there. And there’s always the risk of a cave-in. Also, a cave is not really very comfortable. You can cushion the floor with carpets and paint pictures on the walls, but it’s still dark inside a cave, and the temperature is always about fifty-five degrees. If you want to get warm, you have to burn something.
And a cave dweller doesn’t really go anywhere. He may watch the traffic passing on the road below. At night he may catch voices of travelers as they sit around their campfires discussing the world beyond the valley. But he won’t join them, because that would mean leaving the safety of the cave.
The Majority Of My Life
I lived in my cave until I was forty-two years old. By that time, my sanctuary had become a prison. I felt trapped. I was hungry, I was cold, and I was almost out of fuel. Nearly everything I had ever owned had gone into the fire, and now it was dark again.
In the Gospels, Jesus sometimes encountered guys like me. The crazy Gadarene, for example, who lived in the caves on the far side of the Sea of Galilee (see Mark 5). Jesus restored that man to his right mind and sent him into town. And don’t forget Lazarus, entombed four days in a cave outside of Bethany. Jesus wept outside of that cave. Then he said, “Lazarus, come out of there!” (John 11:43 paraphrase).
To follow the Path, you must first leave the cave.