“See you in a few minutes. Ta!” and with that she hung up. There were a few words I hadn’t caught at the end of the conversation but I had clearly communicated that my family and I would be arriving in less than 30 minutes. Surely she would wait at the house as she said. Yet the house had been empty when we pulled up the driveway. I had even ventured around calling out loud Hello’s. Nothing but silence and the clean laundry drying lazily on the line in the back. Whatever words I missed must have been important. Hmm. What to do.
I hopped back in the car and decided to head 1.5 KM further down the road to see if we could find the entrance to the glow worm cave. Supposedly there was a sign. Nope. The only thing 1.5 KM from the house was a gated entry to a sheep farm with a wool shed set back a couple hundred meters from the road. Even from where we pulled over you could see the pens around the shed were packed. Fluffy sheep on the back side, skinny sheep on the front. The folks inside were busy helping the sheep get their summer slim on!
Not wanting to cause problems with the shearing operation and enter an obviously closed gate I drove further down the road. Nothing there. I turned around and drove back to the house. Still deserted. I SO wanted this to be a unique adventure for the children. Not sure what I was hoping would happen I drove back to the gate and just parked off the road.
On the North Island in New Zealand is the Waitomo Glow Worm cave. It is a site not to be missed on your tour…that’s what the website says anyway. The subterranean adventure actually takes you in a boat on an underground lake while you gaze at glowing worms on the ceiling. Supposedly they look like stars in the night sky.
Our dear friends with whom we traveled in New Zealand are natives. In fact one of the best parts about spending 21 days there was that for 17 of those days we were hosted in someone’s home, not a sterile hotel room. They of course recommended the best things to do and places where money would be well spent for a tour. But they also had local knowledge they were eager to share about traveling on a budget.
Thus when they said, “Well you can take the Waitomo tour for about $75/person and its a good tour. But, there is a local glow worm cave that just costs about $5 total. Its not big but you’ll get the same basic experience for a fraction of the price.” I listened.
Turns out that “local cave” meant a hole in the ground on private property that the owners allowed the public to explore. There was no tour, no guide and not even any sign out by the road. Was I at the right gate? Would the sheep shearers mind an American with four children breaking up their work to ask about some random cave? What to do? We had been sitting with the engine off for about five minutes and we were growing restless. I decided the game was up. Nothing’s going to happen and the social risk was too high for me to go through a closed gate, cross a crowded pen and try to wrangle information from sheep wrestlers.
I started the car and mumbled something to the children about this not being our day and that we had tried but failed. I backed up on to the road and then mentally slapped myself and had a silent conversation that went something like this:
“Dude! You are in New Zealand! You have a chance to tour a private cave. Do not be afraid! You can do this. Don’t let the fear of potential embarrassment freeze you out of this opportunity.” I paused for a moment and then audibly continued, “Luke, get the gate, we’re going in!” The kids were mortified, they had figured out I was scared.
I decided that rather than walk we would just drive and get it over with. I pulled up to the wool shed and parked next to a tattered hatchback vehicle of undetermined make. I hopped out and looked around for some way to get in the shed without having to dodge sheep. Nothing presented itself. I glanced back at the car and noticed the children were doing their best to become one with the floorboards. My heart was beating in my chest as I waited for one of the shearers to stop and come investigate the interlopers. Nothing.
Then movement caught my eye. I turned to my right and there was a man and woman approaching across the paddock with backpacks and walking sticks. I made a beeline for them and queried them about any caves around the area. “Oh sure! We just came from there. Its just up the trail.” Said the man. I figured out quickly it was a father/daughter pair out for a hike. They pointed in the general direction and said no one had bothered to come out from the wool shed, they’re too busy I guess. “Just follow the trail. There are some signs past the gate that point the way.”
Bingo! We were at the right place! My decision to change my typical pattern had paid off. I made sure everyone had their headlamps (never travel anywhere without a good headlamp!) and water bottles and off we went. About a mile later the trail ended at the cave entrance.
You couldn’t miss it because the creek we had been following ran right into the mouth and disappeared under the earth. This WAS going to be an adventure. Knee deep water for me is crotch deep on Matt. Fortunately it was summer and he was wearing nylon shorts. We plunged in.
As daylight faded to gray twilight we switched on our lamps to make sure we found solid footing in the loose rock and gravel of the stream bed. A bit further on and it got dark. Time to switch off the lights to see if there was anything to these glow worms.
I have goosebumps racing up and down my arms as I relive that moment. When our lights went out the cave came alive. Thousands of tiny lights surrounded us. In an instant we had stepped off the earth and into space. The heavens glowed! The water reflected the light from the walls and ceilings creating an immersive, 360 degree display.
We took a collective gasp and plunged deeper. Time stood still. It was real life, lived wild. No guide to corral us or warn about keeping hands to ourselves. We laughed, we pointed, we splashed, talking excitedly over one another as we discovered new skies and constellations in the unfolding rooms of the cave.
One room had decent acoustics so we sang praise songs and allowed a sacred moment to develop as hollow ground became holy. I fingered the silver pendant hung around my neck, the one with Kristi’s fingerprint engraved on it, and whispered to her that she’d be proud of her brood in that moment and would have enjoyed it as much as we were.
That afternoon was a reward for making a behavioral change. For standing up to fear. I had asked the Father to provide us with a never-to-be-forgotten moment. This was it. Out of all the commercial tours we did, the amazing mountains, rivers, and reef that we covered all five of us rate the little cave on the sheep farm as one of the main highlights of the entire trip.
I’m pretty sure that our Heavenly Father enjoyed our time as much as we did, but I had come within a hair’s breadth of missing it, of squandering his gift because of old habits and fear. Jesus encouraged his followers by telling them “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” But entering the kingdom requires change and faith. However he also notes that the Spirit himself will help us in our weakness. We aren’t alone in this journey!
I’m thankful I recognized the old pattern needed to change and exercised faith to do so that day. Because, to borrow from another famous passage, His kingdom came and his will was done under the earth as we gazed at the heavens.
Change is possible. Once you realize that, then desire to accomplish it kicks in. And the best part is that divine assistance is available any time. Just ask. What are you waiting for?