My husband Tim, my sixteen-year-old son Isaac, and I were on one such road trip. Our final destination was Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where we would meet friends from Kentucky for a few fun-filled days in the mountains. En route we decided to stop near Chattanooga and tour Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is a spectacular 145-foot waterfall. But what makes it most spectacular is that it is 1120 feet under the ground!
The tour began by entering a large elevator. An elevator operator cheerfully greeted us and encouraged us to pack in tightly so that everybody on our tour could fit in the elevator on one trip. Tim, Isaac, and I stood with our backs against the right wall. The glass elevator door shut and we started to drop quickly.
A recorded message played over a speaker in the ceiling: “Welcome to Ruby Falls. We are now descending 260 feet through solid limestone rock. As you can see through the glass door, there are no cracks or crevices until you reach the falls level.”
I watched the wall of rock whiz by, just inches from the door. From out of nowhere, I felt a pang of panic. I am in a box traveling straight down into the earth through a narrow chute with solid rock on all four sides of me.
The recording continued: “The good fresh air in the cave remains at sixty degrees year-round. Your guide will point out many points of interest and explain our history as you enjoy the cavern below.”
Oxygen, I thought. I need more oxygen. And space. I need more space. Too many people. Not enough oxygen. Not enough space. I felt as if I might throw up. I slid down the wall to a squatting position.
“Are you ok?” Tim asked.
I nodded yes.
As the thirty-second ride came to an end, the recording announced: “For your own safety, please keep with your group, watch your step, and your head, and use the handrails where provided. Now please exit the elevator.”
Tim and Isaac poured out of the elevator with the rest of the tour group. I stood, but didn’t take a step.
“Can I ride the elevator back up?” I asked the operator. “I’m not feeling well.”
“Sure you can, sweetie,” she said. “That happens sometimes. Could be the quick drop in elevation.”
Tim and Isaac were looking for me as the tour guide started leading the group into the cave. Tim spotted me in the elevator and looked baffled.
“What are you doing?” he mouthed.
I waved and mouthed back, “Have fun.”
The elevator door closed and I began my ascent to the surface of the earth once again.
In a matter of seconds, a life event can send you whizzing down a solid rock elevator chute. At the bottom, you feel sick and desperate to return to the top. Don’t panic. Get back on the elevator and begin your ascent.
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up” (Psalm 71:20 NIV).