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Stalactites in Timpanogos Cave in spring 2005.

I must have been 10 when our parents took us to see Timpanogos Cave.

I remember the guide clicking off his flashlight and declaring we stood in 100 percent darkness.

I remember him calling one outcropping the "south end of a north-bound bear."

And I remember him teaching us about stalagmites and stalactites.

The stalactites held "tight" to the top of the cave, he said, while the stalagmites just "might" grow enough to reach them.

That memory came back to me the other day while I was reading a piece by Catholic moralist, Henri Nouwen.

Nouwen was writing about "dependence." He pointed out that the word means "to hang suspended from" — that the "pend" in the middle of the word is the same "pend" that shows up in "pendant" or "pendulum."

In other words, when we are "dependent on deity" we're like stalactites holding firmly to what's above us in order to keep from falling.

When Adam lost his dependence on God, he fell.

Empires fall when they let go of what's above.

Many people "fall into sin" and "fall away from our faith."

We let go.

The idea is to keep our eyes on what's securing us from above.

Meanwhile, of course, those arrogant stalagmites below keep adding to their stature. They're like the Tower of Babel. They think they are rising by their own initiative when, in fact, everything they are they owe to what comes to them from overhead.

The moral of the story:

Be a stalactite. Realize you are fully dependent on what's above.

Don't be a stalagmite, thinking you can hoist yourself to heaven by your own efforts.

After reading Henri Nouwen's thoughts about "dependence" and being "held suspended" I decided to do some follow up. I looked for the word in scripture.

The word doesn't appear in the King James Bible.

But it pops up more than a half-dozen times in the Book of Mormon.

Mosiah 4:19 is especially tasty:

For Behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have …

In other words, are we not all just a bunch of Timpanogos stalactites?

As I write this, it occurs to me my grandkids haven't seen Timpanogos Cave.

This summer might be a good time for a family field trip, and a field lesson to go along with it.

EMAIL: jerjohn@desnews.com