Have you ever been inside a cave with no light? You literally can’t see your hand in front of your face. Now, imagine being underwater in that situation!
As an advanced scuba diver, I understand the risks of diving in what experts call overhead environments (shipwrecks, ice, and especially caves). During a trip to northwest Florida, I had the chance to experience it firsthand.
We were visiting Morrison, a crystal-clear natural freshwater spring that allows novice divers to gain confidence in a safe environment. Having dove the headspring earlier during my first scuba certification, I wanted to explore the underwater cavern. Two certified cave divers invited me to join them.
An underwater cavern differs from a cave in that it has some natural light, making it less dangerous, but still somewhat scary for a first-timer. While the experienced divers assured me it was safe, a warning sign featuring the grim reaper staring out from the cavern’s entrance spooked me. Nevertheless, following the leader, I kicked hard and dove downward into the powerful spring current, swimming through the small opening and hugging the rocky bottom while just barely squeezing through.
Now inside the main cavern, I suddenly felt very disoriented. Air bubbles bounced off the walls, mixing my senses and confusing me which way was up. I flicked on my small flashlight, only to spot a toothy freshwater eel grinning back at me. This was too much. I felt lost and wanted to get out.
Just when I began to panic, my new dive buddy, sensing my rising discomfort, grabbed my hand and switched on his powerful underwater torch. He didn’t point it at the eel nor at himself. Rather, he focused the beam at his right hand clutching mine. He firmly squeezed my hand twice while illuminating it with the bright light. Like the air gently bubbling from my scuba tank, my unease slowly drifted away. Pointing the light at his face, he flashed me the “you okay?” sign. I circled my thumb and forefinger to reply yes.
A calmness crept over me. Still grasping my hand, my new friend began pointing out the beautiful features of the cavern – even the eels! They didn’t look so scary in this new light. I felt lucky to be there. After a few more minutes gazing at these rarely seen wonders, it was time to leave. I stayed low, letting the boiling spring shoot me through the small circular opening back out into the spring sunshine. It was actually quite fun! We shared more handshakes and smiles as we surfaced.
Though I haven’t been diving in many years, I occasionally sense that uncomfortable lost feeling when facing a new situation or challenge. Then I remember a strong right hand that once held me in the darkness, reminding me that I am not alone.
“If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.”– Psalm 139