You are walking down a pitch black tube. Your flashlight’s batteries seem to be going out. There are three of you who need it to get back into the light. What do you do? You start comparing your experience to everything you ever learned in Sunday School. At least that is what we did as we made our way down the lava tubes in Volcano National Park. Micah was the fearless leader. Kareena and I had a white knuckle grip on the backpack in front of us (much like the grip we imagine we should have on the iron rod). As Micah pointed out each pitfall and speed bump with the flashlight, we were continually reminded that without the help of his light, we would not gotten very far without shedding blood. We were ever so grateful to have someone with a better perspective than we had leading the way. We also realized that sometimes you just need to have faith in the little light you can see, no matter how dim it seems, and it will grow stronger and lead you home safely. And, of course, as we were walking a few steps behind the light, we saw the importance of continuing to follow it, even though it sometimes seems out of reach.
Our little adventure going down the lava tube put us in the right frame of mind to cross the lava rock fields on our way out to the active lava flow. There’s not much like crossing razor sharp lava rocks that are bent and folded and piled and cracked unpredictably to get you praying for a safe return home. Especially when you realize that you are going to have to come back the same way in the dark. Yes, there were signs telling us that we each needed a flashlight if we were going to go out to the flow. And yes, we realized we were doing something kind of stupid by going out with one dying flashlight. We kept asking ourselves if Heavenly Father helps people who do stupid things when they realize they are doing stupid things. So, as we headed back from the flow with the sun dropping quickly in the west, we just kept right on thinking about everything we ever learned in Sunday School. First of all, we learned the importance of beacons. Every quarter mile, there were flashing beacons directing us where to go. But we quickly realized that the beacons weren’t going to do much good if we couldn’t see them, which is why it is important to have good friends. There were multiple times one of us would be wandering off to the left or right, going in the direction we thought the beacon was in, only to have someone who could see the beacon call us back on track. Sometimes we got off track by trying to take the path of least resistance through the treacherous lava field, but if we always did that, we would probably still be wandering around in the field. We were grateful for the light Heavenly Father provided in the moon, which was nearly full, and which reflected beautifully off of the curves and contours of the hardened rock and made it much easier to get solid footing. It reminded us that Heavenly Father has given us the light we need, but it is up to us whether to ignore it or use it. And use it we did. Heavenly Father also blessed one of us with the foresight to plan ahead in case something did go wrong. Which, of course, it did. This brings us to the answer to the question we had been asking ourselves since we started the 3.5 mile trek from the parking lot to the lava flow: Yes, Heavenly Father does help people who do stupid things when they know they are doing stupid things. But, just like it is harder to repent when you plan repentance before you sin, it will be more difficult and painful than if you had not planned to sin in the first place.
And that, my friends, brings us to our final adventure on the Big Island.