When I first began going to my church, shortly after meeting Jesus, I was a little intimidated. Not many church people have experience with alcoholic/addicts. At first I felt less than. No one treated me that way. It was my own inferiority complex that kept me looking down. The folks at my church treated me just like I was one of them. They’ve been exceptional at helping me see my true identity: a beloved child of God my Father. Which is – coincidentally – their identity as well.
I do tell tales from time to time. Just so people remember I was a hard case. This may be why someone might interact with me as if I were relating a near-death experience. This also would be an appropriate response.
There have been four times when I was near death. That I know of. Only God knows the total. The last time was due to undetected stomach ulcers. Not a pleasant subject to talk about, and even less pleasant to remedy. I am one of the 20% of people that do not feel any pain from stomach ulcers. Lucky me!
Here’s what happened…
I woke one night with severe pain in my lower back. I got out of bed and took care of some personal business. On my journey back to the bed, I collapsed and blacked out. I came to a few hours later. The upper half of my body was on the bed, the rest of me on the floor; like I had tried to climb into bed but missed. On the bed sheets in front of me was an alarming amount of blood. I managed to find the phone and call 911. An ambulance arrived, and paramedics came to cart me out.
Remember when your mom told you to always wear clean underwear? You should. ‘Cause you just never know. I was carried out in just my BVDs, in front of the people the ambulance had woken up. It didn’t bother me much because I was losing my vision by then. I had bigger fish to fry, so to speak. Later I found out the back pain was my kidneys shutting down, and the temporary blindness was the brain attempting to save itself. There’s some debate about whether it was successful.
In the ambulance one of the paramedics said, “I’m not getting a pulse.” I wondered about the other poor guy they were working on. Eventually I realized it was me so I wiggled a finger. At least I think I did.
You know those overly-dramatized scenes in the TV shows about emergency rooms? That’s not always an over-dramatization. I’ll spare you the gory and unflattering details. Let’s just say the efficiency getting me into an operating room was clearly the result of lots of experience by a highly trained, professional medical team. I couldn’t see but I could hear, and they sounded like NASCAR announcers.
While the ER people were rushing all over the place, I was fine. I found it oddly curious that dying could be so peaceful. I’d heard it could be that way. I would much prefer to go peacefully, like my great-grandfather… in his sleep; definitely not screaming and crying like his passengers. (sorry, I couldn’t resist the joke)
I regained consciousness the day after the operation. A surgeon stopped by to check on me. He said, by the time I got to surgery I had about 4 hours of life left in the dwindling blood supply in my body. Internal hemorrhaging, he said. Sad waste of a weekend, I said. See? I told you I used to be a jerk.
He asked what I remembered. I told him I blacked out in the middle of the night, and I came to (with vision) for a short time, which is when I dialed 911. He said it was just one of those things: gaining consciousness long enough to dial the phone sometimes happened in these cases. Usually not.
This is only one of many examples when God intervened in my life, while I was still an unredeemed rebel.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV
No one knows when their last breath will be. We are all terminal cases. No one gets out alive. The odds of death are exactly 100%. I’m not being morbid; I’m being realistic. Everyone has an expiration date.
I do not want to get near the end and have regrets. I do not want to regret:
not saying the words someone needed to hear
spending all my evenings in front of a TV
I was ever apathetic
my last words to someone were angry ones
I am closer to the end of my earthly life than the beginning of it. The end is likely still far off. But for all of us, it is closer than it was last year or last week. When I breathe for the last time, I don’t want to be thinking about regret. I want to be thinking about seeing my Jesus.