Finding What You Lost and Forgetting What You Found: Analogy of Life in the Cave
If you read my profile, you know that I have a background in education. I loved every single student in every single class that I taught. There was one particular class (Miss W's 6th graders...you know who you are!) with whom I went through quite an intense year. The story of the life-changing transformation that took place that year is for another Hub, another time. I wrote the following story metaphor for some of the girls in that class a few years later as a reminder to them to remember what they'd learned about the potential that life offers. This story is not written in eloquent language with rich vocabulary, but it is written with the intent purpose of being simple and easy to understand. I included some questions at the end for the reader to consider. I hope this speaks to you and helps you to remember what waits for you "outside of the cave."
You are in a dark cave. It is damp and cold. There is a dim light that creates just enough illumination that you can see one another’s shadows. As you walk around in the cave, you stumble and fall—but pick yourself up and go on—this is the way of the cave. You band together with your friends and make the best of such a dingy home. You long for something more—but don’t know what that something is—all you have known is life in the cave. Time goes on and you just about forget about your desire for something more—until one day she comes. She carries a bright torch—its light hurts your eyes and you squint, trying to see who she is. All of a sudden—you hear a scream—then another. You look around and realize that for the first time—you can actually see your surroundings—your friends—and yourself. The walls are covered with hissing cockroaches. The floors with centipedes and other squirming creatures. You look at your arms and legs and a feeling of horror overcomes you. You have bug bites all over and scabs ooze with pus and blood. You had never noticed that when you’d fallen down time and time again—you were cutting yourself on the sharp rocks below. You look at your friend next to you and scream at the horrid sight before you. Her body, too, is covered in bites, welts, scabs, and blood. She is a ghastly white and looks as if she is among the living dead. As she stares at you in terror—you realize that you probably look just as scary. As you regain your senses, you look back towards the girl with the torch. She’s rambling on and on about something—but it’s hard to hear what she’s saying in the midst of everybody’s screams and gasping. You can make out a few words. “..can help…you…dying…the light…have been deceived…is freedom…new life…”
“Get rid of her!” somebody shouts.
“She’s causing us to get bit—put out that torch!” cries out another.
And before you know it, the torch has been extinguished and the girl is chased away. At first, fear overtakes you as the darkness settles back into place. You are worried about the condition of your body and fear the roaches that surround you. You decide that you are stuck—there’s nothing you can do—and that you might as well focus on something else. Minutes turn to hours turn to days. After time, you question if the girl with the torch was even real or if it was just a dream. Eventually, you forget about the horrid condition of your surroundings and become content, once again, to live in the darkness of the cave.
Life goes on in the cave—you do whatever you want—and your focus is on trying to find the most enjoyment, possible. One day, you think about the girl with the torch—and something deep inside you burns with desire to see her, again. You try to imagine what her torch looked like—but you can barely remember. Looking around, you wonder where the source of light comes from by which you live. You decide to explore and look for its source. As you are getting ready to make the journey, people mock you. They laugh at you—tease you—and tell you it’s a waste of time.
“Come on—have a drink—hang out with us—its stupid to go wandering around in unknown territory—who knows what’s out there!” they cry out. But something inside you tells you that you must know. You decide to go.
As you walk, loneliness and fear come over you. This is stupid, you think to yourself. But you’ve gone so far already—there’s no point in turning back now. After hours—or days—you have no concept of time—you feel about ready to give up. Suddenly, you turn a corner and squint at the brightness of the light that fills the room. You see torches around the room—hundreds of them—perhaps thousands! Written under each torch is a name. The first torch you look at has your name written underneath it. Trembling, you walk forward. You slowly reach out your hand and pick up the torch. As you hold it—you feel a sense of peace come upon you—and your strength is renewed. You are not sure why—but suddenly you feel like you know which direction to go next. You walk though many more dark tunnels, full of twists and turns—but it seems as if the longer you walk, the stronger you become!
Finally, you come to an opening that has such a bright light pouring out of it that you close your eyes. Afraid that you will be blinded if you open your eyes fully, you open them only part way—and walk cautiously towards the light. Suddenly—you have quite a strange sensation. A cool breeze blows through your hair—it is refreshing and unlike anything you’d ever felt before. Slowly, you open your eyes. After several minutes, you adjust to the light and for the first time, realize that you are not in the cave anymore. Below your feet, instead of sharp rocks, is soft, velvety grass. Before you is a waterfall—a mist of water droplets falls on your face. Trees tower above you—their leaves sway in the wind—almost as if caught in a hypnotic dance. You hear a voice. It says, “This is reality—this is life.” You look around—wondering where the voice came from. Birds chirp and fly overhead. “This is what it means to live!” You hear the voice again. Then you realize that it is your own voice!
You explore your new surroundings a little bit. You have so much excitement—hope—life—love. You can’t believe that this is really happening! I can never forget this as long as I live, you think to yourself. After a while, you decide that you just have to go back to the cave to tell the others about this glorious reality that exists outside of the dark, gloomy confines of the underground world.
By now, you are filled with so much life and energy—you feel invincible—like nothing can ever hurt you again. You grab your torch and run back into the cave. When you reach the cavern of the cave-dwellers—you hear people shouting. You ramble on and on about what you’d found—but nobody is listening. “Put out that torch or get out of here!” they yell. Somebody knocks you in the head and you pass out. When you awake, you open your eyes to the darkness. You try to explain to the others what you found—but nobody believes you. They tell you that you are crazy—that you were dreaming—and that it sounds absurd. They offer you a drink and tell you to calm down. You have a choice before you—you make the journey again on your own—or you stay and try to convince them. You decide to think about it. You take the drink. As you spin into drunkenness, you wonder if you actually really left the cave. It seems totally unrealistic and illogical. Then you are distracted by him—you know—him. The one that you’ve had a crush on forever. He puts his arm around you and pulls you near. In the comfort of his arms, you slowly let the memory of your journey drift away.
Days go by—weeks—months—years. Your journey has dwindled down to a foggy and distant memory that you have categorized as a strange dream. Your life is in the cave—your friends are in the cave. Whenever you think about any other reality, that voice—that nagging voice—deep and seductive—whispers, “Shhhh….its not real…look over here…look at what I have for you.” You turn—and forget.
- What kinds of feelings did this story bring up in you?
- Why did the kids yell at the lady with the torch?
- Why do you think the girl so easily forgot her journey out of the cave?
- What do you think the cave represents? The torch? Outside of the cave?
- Can you relate to this story? How?
- Are you satisfied with living life in the cave after you’ve seen the reality of what life can really be?
- What kinds of changes might God be asking you to make in order to live in the freedom outside of the cave? Be specific!!!