Two summers ago, my family and I had the privilege of visiting the **Wieliczka Salt Mine, located in the town of Wieliczka, just outside of Krakow in southern Poland. The mine, built in the 13th century, continuously produced table salt until 2007, as one of the world’s oldest salt mines still in operation. Though it is now closed to mining, it has become a major tourist attraction.
The Wieliczka Salt Mine reaches a depth of 327 metres (1,073 ft) and is over 287 kilometres (178 mi) long. In its day, it was a major source of income for the country, employing thousands of people and even animals. Today the lower levels are flooded with briny water; nonetheless, 1.2 billion tourists annually cover 3.5 kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth on a tour that lasts over two hours. Even at that, less than 2% of the length of the mine’s passages are covered.
Why would so many visitors want to be taken so far into the earth to see a mine that is no longer in use?
Because over the years, this hole in the ground has become a thing of beauty, miners have sculpted statues, murals, even huge rooms in the salt, making it truly a “must see” if you are ever visiting the Krakow region of Poland.
Though it may sound like it, this isn’t really supposed to be a publicity campaign for the Wieliczka Salt Mines. Rather, this three-part mini-series is meant to illustrate some important truths about our heart-temples (“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Cor. 6:19 NIV). We invite you to join us on Thursday and Saturday as well.
Among the things that really grabbed my attention in the mine were the four chapels that have been carved entirely out of the salt rock. These contain altars, murals, crosses, even chandeliers, and when you stand in the largest of these cathedrals, you might think you were standing in an above-ground church.
Perhaps the most interesting fact of all is that from above ground, you have absolutely no idea that such beauty lies just below your feet.
The Bible speaks of such a mine:
“We all know how silver seams the rocks, we’ve seen the stuff from which gold is refined, We’re aware of how iron is dug out of the ground and copper is smelted from rock. Miners penetrate the earth’s darkness, searching the roots of the mountains for ore, digging away in the suffocating darkness. Far from civilization, far from the traffic, they cut a shaft, and are lowered into it by ropes. Earth’s surface is a field for grain, but its depths are a forge firing sapphires from stones and chiseling gold from rocks. Vultures are blind to its riches, hawks never lay eyes on it. Wild animals are oblivious to it, lions don’t know it’s there. Miners hammer away at the rock, they uproot the mountains. They tunnel through the rock and find all kinds of beautiful gems. They discover the origins of rivers, and bring earth’s secrets to light.” (Job 28:1-11 MSG)
As I read this text the other day, God spoke to me of how He is at work inside the human heart. Far beneath our exterior actions, God is “mining” us. He is looking to bring forth the precious metals and stones that lie within, buried by the dross; and at the same time, He is removing that “dross”. But perhaps most importantly, He is chiseling out massive cathedrals from our hearts of stone, cathedrals that He, Himself, can fill. He is taking the dross that is in our hearts and forming us into something beautiful, something of great value.
Remember this the next time you think of someone you’ve been praying for, or even if you think of something you’ve been praying for deliverance from in your own life, but there doesn’t appear to be any answers to your prayers: God is at work in the “mine” of your hearts and souls, clearing out the dross, refining the precious metals and stones, and carving out beautiful heart-temples for His Spirit. We may not see from the surface, but one day, just like the Wieliczka Salt Mine, your heart-temples will become a thing of great beauty and value.
Please join us on Thursday for another lesson to be learned from the Wieliczka Salt Mine, in “The Salt Mine, Part 2: Keeping the Brine at Bay”.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
**All information about the Wieliczka Salt mine comes from personal tour and from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wieliczka_Salt_Mine
(To access the entire “Salt Mine” mini-series, please click here.)