My friend Matt Covington researches hydrogeology and geomorphology, with a particular focus on karst aquifers and landforms. This means he spends a lot of time underground. Sometimes waaaayyyyyy underground. And not just on Saturday afternoons, but sometimes for weeks at a time. He has explored some of the deepest caves in the world in Mexico, Peru, Sumatra, Alaska, China, Slovenia and Croatia.
Weeks. Underground. Deep underground. Sometimes scuba diving deep underground so he can go deeper. Places so dark that your body loses its ability to tell night from day, to know when to sleep or be awake.
What he finds in these deeply-hidden recesses of the planet is of exceptional beauty and importance, but what happens when he emerges is also interesting and surprising.
Matt described to me what it is like to come out of one cave in particular in Mexico. After numerous days underground, you have to ascend using about 2000 feet of rope, carrying all your gear up with you. It is extremely arduous and not just a little dangerous. “As you make your way up slowly," he says, "your senses that have become attuned to the total darkness, dampened sound and smell of the cave start to be awakened. You smell the mouldering earth of the forest above, hear the sounds of the life moving around. But it is the colors, the vividness of the colors is indescribable.”
It’s almost like you have a superpower, the ability to smell and hear and see like never before. Unfortunately, Matt says this only last for a few minutes before your senses compensate and return to “normal.”
It’s all about perception, isn’t it? The ability to perceive — to really see, hear, smell, taste and feel — what is all real. The beauty is always around us, the life that we have been given. The same is true about eternal life: resurrection living, the Jesus life, the life that Christ came to inaugurate with the coming of the Kingdom and the life that the Spirit is at work in all of us cultivating and calling us to. It’s there. It’s real, the most real thing there is. But how do we see it? How do “tune” our senses to experience it?