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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chislehurst: A Picture of the Soul

 Chislehurst. It is a sleepy suburb, located just outside the bustling city of London, England. And yet, this unremarkable place houses a doorway to another world. Unknown to many, there is a dark and mysterious location hidden 232 feet below the ground: 22 miles of disorienting tunnels, creating a labyrinth of darkness and confusion. In the 17th century, it was mined for its unlimited resources of chalk, hugely important at that time in the building projects of the day. As these chalk walls were excavated, cave-ins were an ever-present threat due to the brittleness of its substance.
  It is easy to get lost in the Chislehurst caves. Since there is no access to natural light, one must bring an artificial light in order to make their way around. If the light goes out, it becomes pitch black, and one is blinded by the darkness. Yet, even with a lantern to illuminate the place, one can lose their way very quickly without a guide.
 Adding to the mysterious feel of the place, sounds are hugely exaggerated inside this underground hideout. The echoes of a human voice or a loud noise can last for several minutes.
 There is one small pool of standing water in the chalky maze - a lone source of moisture in an otherwise God-forsaken area.
 Chislehurst. It may reside in a village in England, but it might also lurk much closer. I know more about this place than many realize, though never having seen the real thing. I have entered its deepest caverns, felt its darkness, and heard its lasting echoes. Why? Because Chislehurst is a picture of the soul.
 Much like the town in which it resides, my Chislehurst was largely hidden below the surface - a place largely unknown to those around me. Yet, I knew its hidden secrets well, for I was trapped in its maze of tunnels, unable to find my way out. Within its dark and mysterious labyrinth, I wandered endlessly, searching for a way out of the haunted darkness of myself.
 Rather than its walls being made of chalk, my cave was made of selfishness, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, shame, and despair. The lies echoed in the passageways of my heart and mind: " You are not good enough!" " You are not loved!" " God does not care about you!" " You have no hope!" As I groped about, trying to find some way to break free, I realized that I had no light and no guide. I was lost. I thought I had no chance of deliverance. Pitch black. Lasting sounds. Cave-ins very real. This was my nightmare of the soul.
 Not only was it dark and despairing, but it was also polluted. That pool of standing water stank. With no movement to its ripples, it became a place of death. Sin had corrupted. It was no living source. It might temporarily quench the thirst, but it would never satisfy. Worse than that, it would kill.
 My Chislehurst was not a place of peace. It was not a place of love. It was not a place of light. Grace did not reside there. I felt alone. On the surface, many walked on by, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was losing hope. The soul was aching. Did anyone care enough to come calling after me? Would a guide enter into the darkness? Would I ever see the light?
 Then, just when it seemed that life could get no worse, that I could never be found, a Voice called into the night: "Where are you?" That ageless question that was asked of Adam in Genesis 3:9 was asked of me. At first, I heard no one coming. I saw no light. There was nothing - only the echo of that Voice and that lingering question. For some time, I could not answer. I did not know where I was. I only saw darkness. But soon it became evident that a search was on. The Voice kept calling, "Where are you?"
 Then, one day a flicker of light appeared. I was being pursued. I replied, "Who are you? I hear your voice, but I am afraid." But the light came closer, and it was clear to me: the One who was speaking into the darkness was the One who held the light, and He was not afraid of me. As the light came closer, it cast shadows on the walls around me. I could begin to see this place for what it was: a prison. I was captive to my own lies. I was trapped in the confines of foolishness. And I began to get up. Stumbling, I took one step. Then another. And another. Slowly, I started to walk toward the light.
  I finally met its Source while at my own source, false as it was. Surrounded by walls of deception, the cesspool of sin in clear view, my darkness was dispelled by the power of His light. Everything came into perspective. I had been found by a God who loved me fiercely. A God who had chosen to enter this place of darkness in order to bring me out. To deliver me. To save. For so long I had wandered without His aid. I had been lost in a place of bondage. And yet, He could set me free. He could forgive. He could, and would, be that Guide I had long sought for. With loving kindness and amazing grace, He and I began our journey together. He took my hand and led me out. With the guidance of His light, the darkest night began to end. The shadows vanished. Polluted waters turned into living streams. Truth replaced lies, and the haunting echoes faded with time. Slowly, the realization set in: how dark I am without His presence! How silly I am to think that I can find my way alone!
 In time, the door that led to life was opened. The incredible world of joy and thankfulness was revealed to me, and the tunnels of darkness were shut off forever. My Chislehurst, in all its horror, was only a memory.
  Perhaps you are in a Chislehurst of your own. Lost in the darkness, you think you have been left to die. You have no hope. The echoes roar in your soul. It is my desire that the same Voice will come calling after you. That the light of God will begin to dispel your darkest night. May you find yourself stepping toward freedom, and may your Chislehurst become a season of the past. By the grace of God, may joy return to you again.
  Augustus Toplady said it best, and this is my prayer for myself as well as you:
" Thou seest I dwell in awful night
Until Thou in my heart appear;
Kindle the flame, O Lord, and light
Thine everlasting candle there."