A Saving Light in the Darkness

“We came from Caladan–a paradise world for our form of life. There existed no need on Caladan to build a physical paradise or paradise of the mind–we could see the actuality all around us. And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life–we went soft, we lost our edge.” Frank Herbert, Dune~

Imagine spending your daylight hours–most of them in an eighteen-inch tunnel shoveling coal out of your space by hand. Your son stands ready to fill a large bin on wheels just outside the small tunnel. You both get paid for production–not time invested.

You also provide the fuel to warm the homes in your community and beyond.

Boys go to school until it’s time to go to the mines. They grow up and raise families. Sons in the mines, daughters in the kitchens–all working to make life better for the next ones coming. That is the story of the Arigna Coal Mine–now a tourist site–in Ireland.

I grew up in a railroad town near the heart of America’s coal country. I remember the strip mines dotting our rolling mountains. Now restored, the mountains appear never to have been mined.

Yet, mining still happens around us. As my husband and I drove across a bridge in town the other day, we saw a long line of rail cars all filled to the brim with coal.

Mining still happens, but it’s no longer a lone man picking and shoveling out a tiny tunnel.

When machines came to Arigna, they had the opposite effect of what we might expect. Today when we consider robotics and technology in the workplace, we calculate how many jobs will go by the wayside as machines replace workers.

When mining found technology, the industry needed more workers to haul the greater bounty out of the mountain. And since production increased, and since the workers earned through production, both jobs and earnings grew.

Yet in Arigna, one thing remained. And it resonates in my heart every time I ponder it.

When we entered the mine–now a large, reinforced tunnel to accommodate tourists rather than miners–there was a picture of Christ. The tour guide–at a government-funded site, mind you–explained that workers prayed as they began their shifts–prayed for safety–and God answered and blessed.

Our guide credited Christ as the “safety officer” of the mine that produced, first iron, then coal for more than 400 years. In 400 years of mining–with no safety agency overseeing operations until the 1980s–only one man died.*

I’ve pondered the faith and devotion of those miners since my visit to Arigna. And I’ve pondered the life of unimaginable (to me) work!

Like us, they were imperfect. They had conflicts with neighbors and petty jealousies.

They had unmet dreams. In the 1960s, they staged a strike that lasted several months.

Yet overall, they seemed to have a kind of satisfaction we lack today. Life was hard but good.

That’s an idea that seems so foreign to us. We do all we can to resist it. We work with the expectation that life will get better and better. And that must also mean easier and more prosperous.

Easier and more prosperous came to the miners of Arigna through technology. But they never took the picture down of the One they believed kept them safe.

Life is hard. It’s easier and more prosperous for some. But there is meaning in difficulty. And the One who watched over the Arigna miners is faithful.

Republished from June 24, 2019.

Photo Credit: RTE Archives, Arigna Mine

*One website asserts that “five or six died” over the years. Another says, “Accidents were few and far between.”

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

28 Replies to “A Saving Light in the Darkness”

  1. This is so true, that, as you say, “We work with the expectation that life will get better and better. And that must also mean easier and more prosperous.” We keep our minds set on the things of this world too often. But it’s better to keep our minds on Jesus, on the hope of eternity. Our time on earth isn’t supposed to be perfect–it’s not heaven.

    1. I tell myself that every so often, Jessica. I’m not in heaven yet. Still we work to make our lives like a piece of heaven on earth. Thanks for your contribution to the reminder too. God bless!

  2. Wow! How very important is this message for today’s world?! Thank you so much for sharing both the history lesson and life lesson my friend. Loved this so much!

    1. Me too, Ava. I’ve been complaining lately about something, and I must stop. Life is hard sometimes. And maybe it’s supposed to be. Thanks and God bless!

  3. That story reminds me of the movie, “How Green Was My Valley.” And the miners in your story are a testimony to the world that technology cannot replace God. No matter how advanced the machines are they cannot protect. He gives His angels charge over us as Psalm 91 tells us. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed the history lesson.

  4. Your post reminds me that one tiny candle can banish the darkness from a cave. How infinitely more does Jesus bring Light to a dark world. In this time of strife and conflict, your timely message reminds us to turn to our Light

  5. This mining story moved my heart. I grew up in a small town in the SW mountains of Virginia. Coal country! Many of our friends and neighbors and those we worshiped alongside, made a living working in the coal mines. As a high-school girl, I became the babysitter for one young boy whose father worked in one of the local mines. The entire family became so dear to me. Sadly about fifteen years ago, the father was killed in a mine explosion. And a lot of those mines have closed down and people lost their livelihood.

    I like how you note, life was hard, but good. That is so foreign to most of us these days!

    1. So sorry to hear a way of life has ended in your community. And you’re so right, Karen, that this way of life is foreign to us. We do not do as well without some amount of difficulty. Thanks and God bless!

  6. Such a beautiful story. I love it and hope to think of it often. Also, your wonderful post holds an important message for the people of our day. As I have traveled, I find those who work hard and have “enough” are some of the happiest souls. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is beautiful, Nancy. Goodness can come from difficult circumstances. I love reading that the miners of the Arigna mine always began their shifts with prayer. Oh, that I would remember to pray more throughout my days.

  8. A superb post, Nancy. The men and boys who do the mining are so inspirational — that they could endure such hard surroundings and circumstances, and yet have the attitude that life is good. They have what they need. Such a good attitude to cultivate all because they’re relying on Christ, who watches over them. This is so convicting! I’m often discontent, and yet I’m not crammed into an 18″ pipe digging out coal for my daily bread. Thank you for this post, sister!

  9. What a testimony to Christ and to the prayers of the miners. I like how you also bring out the fact that work makes us stronger and when life gets easy we get soft.

  10. Nancy, what a powerful example and teaching. It’s true, we do all we can to resist the hard work, the hard life with no end in sight… in this life. There is a blessing in the difficulties. It reminds us this world is not our home. But Christ, who gave us life, will watch over us until He calls us to our heavenly home. Thank you for sharing this testimony of faith and faithfulness.

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