11: Out of the Pit

11: Out of the Pit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Out of the Pit

Darkness cannot put out the Light. It can only make God brighter.

~Author Unknown

“If I give it everything I’ve got, maybe I can still free myself,” I thought. I’d been saving the last of my energy for a final push, and now was the time. It had to be. I’d been stuck in the depths of a cave for hours, and my hope was fading fast. If I didn’t get out soon, I wasn’t going to. I clenched my jaw, strained my muscles, and used every ounce of energy left in my body in that final struggle. Everything I had was locked in combat against the limestone that had been my prison for nearly a day. My body groped and searched in the dark for a way that I could contort my body to free myself from the cold grip of the stone. I shouted in anger. No one heard. That’s when I collapsed in defeat on the cold hard floor of the cave. And my hope died.

More than twenty hours earlier, my friend Emma and I had stood at the entrance to the cave. We had laughed and joked as I climbed down the steep mouth and she followed. Six of us had gone on that camping trip, but after a full day of spelunking, the others had gone back to camp to eat. Emma and I decided to explore one more cave.

The mud of the cave floor was soft and sticky as we snaked our way through the winding tunnel. The air was musty and heavy. As the passage twisted through the earth, it shrunk. Then, suddenly, after a tight squeeze, I emerged into a larger room.

“Once you make it past this narrow spot you can almost stand,” I told Emma, as I stretched out my arms and legs and enjoyed the ample space.

“Alright, I’m almost th…” Emma’s sentence was cut short. I turned around.

“Are you alright?” I asked. All I could see was her face, and her eyes were full of fear.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’m stuck.”

Emma and I tried everything we could to free her, but it became apparent we needed help. Help that I couldn’t go find because Emma was stuck between me and the cave mouth. That’s why we were so relieved when we heard voices behind us. A beam of light shot down the tunnel.

“What’s going on here?” rang a young man’s voice.

“We need help,” I shouted. “She’s stuck.”

“I’ve got two buddies with me,” he said. “They can go find a park ranger, but I’ll stay here and see if I can help from this side.”

The next several hours were long and arduous. Even with the stranger’s help, we weren’t able to budge Emma. Eventually a park ranger came down. The fire department was on its way, but a rescue would take time. I gave Emma my shirt to cover her cold legs and tried to keep her calm.

Almost five hours after we had entered the cave, the rescue team arrived. Our rescuer slowly chiseled away the ancient cave wall, and then worked with Emma to dislodge her. “Let’s get you out of here,” the firefighter told her as he gave a sigh of relief. They wriggled their way out of the cave, and I followed behind.

As we worked our way out of the cave, I became hung up in a tight spot.

“Are you okay?” Emma asked.

“Yeah, I just need to take a breather, my chest is stuck,” I said.

“We’ll get her out of here and then come back to check on you,” a fireman assured me.

Emma looked at me one last time. Then her face faded into shadow, and I was alone.

As I tried to free my chest from the rock, I found that I was making things worse. No matter what I did or how I moved, the rock squeezed tighter. The summer before, I had worked shoveling concrete. Rock that moved. I wished I could move this stone. When the fireman returned to the passage, he tried to talk me through the obstacles in this macabre game of Twister. I ended up wedged deeper in the crevice. I was exhausted, cold, hungry, and terrified.

The next sixteen hours were agony. Soon after my entrapment, the fireman explained that they could chisel away very little of the cave wall for fear of collapsing the cavern. Instead, the rescue team tried everything from arm power to ropes and harnesses to pull me from the cave’s grip. They brought oxygen tanks and lanterns. A woman read me a note from my parents, who were now waiting at the mouth of the cave. I wondered if I would see them again.

After dozens of attempts, the rescue team moved me several inches. Enough that I could see there might be a possibility of my escape. However, I could also see that for this to happen, I would need to move my body into exactly the right position. It was also going to take extreme physical force and effort. Strength I didn’t know if I had anymore. I hadn’t eaten in more than twenty-four hours. I hadn’t slept in forty-eight.

With the guidance of the rescue team, I stretched and strained against the cave walls. I tried every angle. I used every muscle. Several times I felt I was close, but each time I fell back into the crevice. Each time I grew more exhausted. Eventually the rescuers needed to switch shifts, and I was alone again, saving my energy for that one final push. And I did push. Alone in the cave I put everything I had into my final struggle.

Nothing happened.

Now, instead of hoping for rescue, I hoped for a swift end.

I hadn’t cried for years, but alone in the darkness I wept. I cried out to God for mercy. I called out for God to hear me. Then I realized something. My strength was entirely gone, but God’s was not. Until now, I had wanted to free myself with own strength. With my human strength. I knew now that this wasn’t possible. If I were going to get out of this cave alive, it would be only through the strength of the Lord. So I prayed. Not that I would have the strength to free myself. But that God would free me with His strength. And with that prayer I pushed one more time. But I didn’t feel myself move my muscles. I felt myself being moved. With no struggle, my body moved exactly where it needed to go.

I was extracted from the stone.

When the rescuers returned to the passage they were astonished to see me sitting on the edge of the crevice. They helped me the rest of the way.

One woman asked me, “How did you get yourself out?”

“I didn’t, I replied.

And as I emerged from the maw of the cave, I knew two things. Human strength wanes. God’s does not.

~Logan Eliasen

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