By Bruce Schlenke
Sometimes there are periods in our lives that we perceive as dark or narrowed by difficult circumstances. The world seems to have closed in around us. We often liken these periods to being in a tunnel — dark and confined, not alive to our surroundings or aware of future direction. And so, we look for the light at the end of the tunnel, that vision and freedom which marks the end of lonely darkness.
Our family had the wonderful privilege of visiting central Europe a few years back when our two college sons had the opportunity to do summer study abroad in Italy. My wife and I met them after their final exams and toured together for a couple weeks. Driving between Italy and Austria, we encountered various alpine mountain ranges and had to thread through many tunnels. Crossing the border from Slovenia to Austria we drove through a 7000 meter tunnel! (If you or yours are like our ‘boys’ and would hold their breath while passing through tunnels, this one poses a real challenge!) Then, on our way through the Dolomite Mountains from Austria to Italy (I think I have my geography right…), we passed through at least 16 separate tunnels in less than an hour. Whoa, move over Pittsburgh!
I began to think about the characterization of tunnels in daily human existence as being negative, difficult and blind. Yes, maybe here in the ‘burgh where the tunnels are tight, congested and soiled dark. But not on this autobahn with wider, rounder, and more hospitable tubes penetrating the hills. In fact, these 16 tunnels made our day’s drive much, much easier. I thought of the Bible verse I remembered from Handel’s Messiah and later found in Isaiah 40 — “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places plain.”
On the roadways tunnels serve one purpose. They cut through an obstacle that otherwise would take much more time and trouble to skirt around and over. Tunnels lift up valleys and make hills and mountains low. They level out the uneven ground and make the rough places as a plain.
Perhaps your experience as a Christian has taught you that a ‘tunnel-time’ of your life has really served as God’s way to get you through a more difficult bend in the road or over a rugged mountain ridge. The Lord created the mountains, certainly; the Lord also bores tunnels.
And too, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it’s 7000 meters long. It means you’ve passed safely, and more swiftly, through the rough and rugged places. Jesus’s last words of assurance to us in Matthew’s Gospel confirm the ever-present Light: “Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” And, that includes the end of your longest tunnel . . .