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Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Dark Tunnel

Have you ever compared a holiday or vacation to that of your Christian life? Sometimes a short break can become a miniature reflection of a particular era in your life, maybe the whole of your life itself. Looking back on my backpacking days, I recall visiting Israel in 1976 and 1993, both of these trips included an experience of archaeology which is quite unlike the normal study of long-disused ruins of ancient buildings. For this particular relic is about 2,700 years old and it is still fully functional. Furthermore, it is mentioned twice in the Old Testament, and it was a site known by Jesus Christ and his disciples. Recently I was reading another blog on this site which gave inspiration for this blog: a Bible study article which touched on 2 Chronicles 32:30:

It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channelled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook.
See also 2 Kings 20:20.
Yes, the relic referred to here is now known as Hezekiah's Tunnel, a still fully functional conduit cut into solid rock and snaking for 512 metres in a rough "S" shaped route under the southern end of Mount Ophel.

King Hezekiah was a smart, God-fearing guy. Around 700 BC his kingdom of Judah was under threat from the Assyrians, then the most powerful nation in the world. So from 701 BC, he commissioned a conduit to be dug into solid rock to divert the water from the spring of Gihon into the west side of the City of David of ancient Jerusalem, therefore cutting off the city's only water supply from the reach of the surrounding enemy.

The tunnel was open to the public on both years I was in Israel. In 1976, while staying at a hotel in West Jerusalem, I became friends with a young street seller of trinkets, which included some genuine ancient pottery which I purchased. He invited me to stay at his home in the East Jerusalem district of Silwan (Arab name for Siloam) where he and his younger brother lived with their parents, almost right on top of the Spring of Gihon. While my new friend went off to the streets to sell his wares, his younger brother offered me a trip into the tunnel for a small fee, despite that it's free to anyone to venture in as long as they provide their own form of illumination. With the purchase of two lengths of wax candles, this was one adventure which I was very keen to experience.
We both waded in ankle deep water through this rather claustrophobic but magnificently engineered structure, using only candlelight, as there were no modernisation to this ancient conduit. Roughly in the middle, the ceiling dropped to just five feet nine inches in height, and being 5'11" tall, it meant I had to crouch for several metres to get through. Throughout, it was I who led, rather than my friend, as I suppose, done purposely to enhance my experience. The walk takes a better part of an hour to complete one way.
The 1993 experience was more tense, as the water was chest-deep throughout, except just before the tunnel ends at the Pool of Siloam, where the floor dropped, making the water deep enough for me to swim out. The second visit was the result of hoping to re-visit the family who were so hospitable seventeen years earlier. But by then the parents have died, the younger brother who took me into the conduit had graduated to become a medical doctor in New York, and the older one was elsewhere in Jerusalem, still selling his trinkets. The house too had gone, along with many other Arab homes in that part of the world. I was amazed how things had changed in just a few years. Nearby, another young man who was selling candles offered to accompany me, a lone tourist, into the tunnel for a fee. Again I led, and where we had to crouch through the low roof section, the water was almost touching our chins. I was feeling triumphant as we saw the daylight appear, and I swam out into the Pool of Siloam, the spot where Jesus sent the blind man to wash his eyes, and came back seeing, (John 9) and I made my way back, dripping wet, to the backpackers hostel in the heart of the Old City.
Throughout these trips we depended on candlelight from a delicate flame burning a length of white wax. Had the candle went out, we would have been in absolute total darkness, so thick it would have been hard to imagine. With solid hard rock walls on each side, wading slowly, groping at each wall would have offered some hope in getting out. But such a delicate flame turned what might have been a terrifying experience into an amazing adventure.

I think the Hezekiah's tunnel experience reflects my life as a married man at present. If take off from a London airport represents our wedding day, and the whole duration of the holiday our lives as a married couple, then the wade through the dark tunnel seem to represent the situation we're in now, with dear Alex still in hospital, and so told by one of the ward nurses, likely to stay in hospital for a long while to come, possibly months. Being alone in the house day by day, is like being in that tunnel - cold, dark and wet - with just the light of Jesus Christ to guide me along the path which would otherwise been darkness, with little or no hope.
This week too, I felt lonely and fearful, even panicky, I think, the fear enhanced by the presence of a wheelchair placed next to her bed. Was I prepared for the inevitable - for Alex to spend the rest of her life confined in a wheelchair throughout each day? I kept on assuring her that I would stick by her for the rest of my life, promising that I would never leave her. This is to assuage her fears that I might get fed up with her presence and leave. I don't have it in my heart in any way to do this. I love her far too much, and such selfish action does not reflect the love of Christ for her as well as he has for the church. At hospital visiting times, I cheer her up, make her laugh, talk and reassure her, then leave with her smiling back at me. At home, often fear and depression set in, however during the week, I find engaging in my window cleaning business can be very therapeutic. 
Earlier I spoke to the ward nurse. She assured me that my wife will not be discharged from hospital and sent home on a wheelchair. Instead she said that they were all committed to bring her back to full health and mobility before discharge. The wheelchair is there for her daily exercise, prescribed to her by a team of physios. Yet as I hold her close in my arms as she lies helplessly in her bed, I can't help remembering two men in the past, Ray and Mike, whose wives' health had both deteriorated to the point of being confined to wheelchairs, then step off this planet to glory as their husbands live on for years to come. Yet these two guys stuck faithfully to their crippled wives while they were alive. They lavished their love and commitment to them and they did not abandon them for selfish pursuits. I admired them both, and should Alex, God forbid, remain a wheelchair-bound cripple for life, I will be hoping that the Holy Spirit of Christ will give me the same love and commitment those two husbands had.

Yet I appreciate the prayers on her behalf offered to the Lord by members of my church as well as you readers and followers of this blog page. At this point in writing, Alex herself is fearful of the future and added to this, fed up of being confined to a hospital ward, and she longs to go home. On the other hand, it does look as if she had accepted her fate as a wheelchair bound cripple. Prayers are continuing to be offered, while I myself may have to face the reality of becoming a full time carer, which could mean the end of my occupation as a window cleaner. It is always a possibility that God may use this experience of being in the dark tunnel as a way of character building in our spiritual lives and have the ability to persevere as those two widowed husbands did.
But to be honest, I much prefer to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, I had a dunking, but the relief to see daylight again not only brought relief but triumph as well. The water from the tunnel flowed into the Pool of Siloam. Here a blind man washed his eyes and came back seeing.

At the end of our tunnel, let's hope that Alex will pass through the Pool of Siloam and come out of the water walking on her own feet. Meanwhile, the delicate light of the candle of Christ will guide as along, with his power and might, he will never be put out.


  1. Hi Frank! What a wonderful post, and tribute to your marriage and love for Alex. I am praying that she gets better soon. I would love it if I could take trips like you did to Israel! We must keep that candle in the tunnel burning. Don't give up. God is with you ALWAYS. Continue to remember John 15:7 --If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. That is the hope I cling to. God bless y'all.


  2. Praise God that He is the light at the end of the tunnel! Alex is blessed to have a devoted husband as you are, and you are both a blessing as your marriage portrays the Gospel, as every marriage of believers should. Thank you for the inspiring post. Praying for you both.
    God bless,

  3. Frank,
    it was lovely to read about your experiences in Hezekiah's tunnel, I believe it is a spiritual reflection of what you are going through. The last time you went in there was the hardest time, but you came through it, into the place of healing. The trial you are going through now is the hardest trial, but the Lord has the ability to bring you through it and grant for you that which may not be possible for man to grant you, complete healing for Alex.
    God bless you, and may He restore Alex to complete health.

  4. Praise God, there is always light at the end of the tunnel for those who believe him, and he provides a candle along the way. I appreciate post a lot.