Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Close Brush With Death

"But as it is written, 
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,
 the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
I Corinthians 2:9

(The Titus 2 Series is no where near finished...there are many partially-finished posts
still swimming around in my head, but the Lord impressed me to write this post for today.)

This is one of those posts that has been hanging in the balance.
The dear Lord has brought it to my mind more than once,
I have dismissed it, filed it somewhere remote...in the back of my mind,
then written another post instead.

Today, He spoke to my heart, and once again, He gave me a gentle nudge.
This time, I said yes.

Anyone who knows me well at all, knows how difficult this past winter was for me.
In all honesty, I didn't know if I would pull through.
It was during the intensity of the battle that I had an experience that affected me so profoundly,
 I do not believe I will forget it for the rest of my life.
My closest encounter yet, that I know of, at least,
with this thing called death.

It happened one night as Kevin was working in his home office and Zach was finishing school for the day.
I was struggling...in the throes of pneumonia.
I could hardly breathe...at all.
My lungs seemed so weak, and it felt like they were full to the point that there was no room for air.
I was in our room, lying on the bed, facing the wall, wheezing...suffering....talking to Jesus.

I felt His nearness.
It felt like He was close enough to touch.
I knew....it was Him.
Feeling Him near is not a sensation that is new to me.
I have felt Him...known He was with me...countless times.
But, this time was different.
This time, though my eyes were closed, I saw Him.
Not His face...
just a shadowy figure...standing by the side of our bed.
I could see a river in front of me.
It was wide.
He stood on this side of it...directly to my left.
I could see the silhouette of His hand.
It was wrapped around the top of an oar that was propped against the ground,
as if He were ready to row and do what was required to get us to the other side.
In the distance, by the river's edge, I seemed to see a small boat...just big enough for the two of us.
(I don't know if there is a real river we cross while dying,
or if the river, boat, and oar I saw were just symbolic
of the crossing necessary to propel a soul to the other side.)

In the silence, amid the wheezing gasps for air,
He spoke.
I would know that voice anywhere.

"Child, if you want to go, I'll take you.
Right now.
I'll go with you.
You won't be alone.
You will have no more sickness.
No more pain.
No tears.
No worries.
I will lead you safely across.
Then you will be with Me forever."

His words sunk in...to my exhausted, sleep-deprived consciousness.
They sounded so inviting.
Everything within me longed for Him...to go with Him...
so we would never be apart again.
I yearned to keep this nearness....this dear, sweet nearness of His Divine presence...
right there in our room.

"If you choose to go with Me...right now...it would be the most selfish choice you could make.
Because you will be home.
You will be at rest.
Your troubles will be over...forever.
This would be the best choice....for you.
But, it would be the most selfish.
Because of them.
Because they need you.
And Me...I still have work for you to do...here on earth.
But, this choice is yours.
I am leaving it up to you.
If you want to go, I will take you now.
If you decide to stay, there will be more sickness....
more pain....more tears...more worry...more heartache.
You can expect it.
It is all a part of life.
The choice is yours, child."

The full impact of the gravity of what was happening and what was being offered to me
did not seem to hit me until later.
While it was happening, it seemed so natural....even commonplace.
Looking back on it, I marvel at how calm it all seemed.
Like it was the most ordinary experience in the world for the dear Lord to stand beside my bed
and offer to take me home to Heaven, but give me the choice to stay, if I preferred to.

As I pondered His words,
in my mind, I saw Kevin....
the one who provides for me,
who loves me...completely unconditionally,
who has walked with me through black, foreboding darkness, and never flinched,
who has endured the sting of satan's darts with me more times than I care to remember
and never even considered the option of walking away during the past almost 26 years.
I saw a little boy with two melted-chocolate brown eyes who calls me Mama.
Who brings more comfort to my heart than I ever dreamed a child could bring.
Who cares and loves me no matter what. 
My mind went to what it would be like....for them....
should I make the choice to leave that moment...with Jesus.
On the one hand, there was a powerfully tempting pull...to the other side....
to run to Him, to get in the boat, and just go.
On the other was a love and compassion and depth of feeling
that ultimately compelled me to make the choice....
to stay.

"Oh, Lord!", I cried out.
"I want to stay...please...for their sake.
I am SO tempted...to go.
But, Lord, my choice is to stay...please."

Ever so gently, I felt Him accept my cry.
I knew He was going to pull me through it all and leave me here...
at least for now.

After it was all over, the stark gravity of what had just happened washed over me.
I was overwhelmed as I began to comprehend that I had brushed so close to death
that I could actually see a river.
That Jesus Himself had appeared to me,
in the depths of my physical need, and He had invited me to cross that river with Him.
That He had extended to me the sobering choice of whether I preferred to go or stay.
I was hardly able to absorb the reality.
I was left speechless...in the aftermath...
hardly able to comprehend how close I really came.

I marvel that I had no fear.
Not even a trace.
It all felt so comfortable...because HE was there.
He has walked so near to me,
and we have traveled together for so long,
it felt like the most natural thing in the world for Him to see me safely over that final step of the journey.

What was there to fear?
Why draw back?
Other than the fact that there are those who need me here,
and I really wanted to stay...for their sake and for His.
I found no selfish reason for staying.
I only found selfish reasons for wanting to go.

After God healed the pneumonia, I went straight into esophagitis and costochondritis,
suffering for months with painful, difficult swallowing and inflammation,
along with other already-existing chronic health issues.
Through it all, He is faithful...ever near...always sustaining...
always reminding me that this is what He said would happen,
and that I had made the choice to stay.

I have thought back over this encounter so many times.
I can still see His shadow, I can still see the river...it is all so clear.
I ponder my choice, and I wonder.
He said He still has work for me to do here...on earth.
I wonder what it is?
What is His purpose for my life?
I feel like I have been given a second chance.
He could easily have taken me...at any moment.
Of course, He always has that option...our lives are totally in His hands...
to give or to take...at all times.
There were nights Kevin was afraid to let me go to sleep.
Nights he would come to my recliner, just to see if I was still breathing.

It was a scary time...for him and Zach.
But, it taught many lessons, and it drew us closer to each other and to God....
even more than we were before.

So, I contemplate.
I dream.
I wonder.
Where does the road lead from here?

What did Jesus refer to when He said He still has work for me to do?
To this point, I have done my utmost to be faithful to Him.
To do anything and everything He has asked of me.
Some of it has been very difficult....impossible through human eyes.
Some of it has left me broken, battered, and bruised.
Some of it has seemed so easy and comfortable and pleasant.
Some of it stretched me so far, it felt I would never recover...when it was all over.
So, what now?
I believe His coming will be soon.
Signs of the times are everywhere.
There is still so much to do!
So many souls to rescue.
So many hurting hearts to reach with His Divine, healing love.

Lately, an old desire of mine has somehow made its way from its deeply-buried spot to the surface.
An old dream that I felt forced to shelf while doing other work for Him.
Looking back, I can see reasons for the difficult places and situations He has brought us through
and delivered us from.
It is like He has peeled bondage off, layer by layer by layer.
Could it be that He has done that to free us up...to allow this long-buried dream of mine
to finally be fulfilled in us and become reality?
Does God plant those dreams in our hearts in the first place?
So we will be led in the right direction...guided by the desires and dreams in our hearts?
Is this the way it works?
I would LOVE to hear any opinions and answers to this question,
as it is weighing heavily on my mind.

I am seeking Him with my whole heart.
I am trying to decipher all of this....
why he gave me the choice to stay here on earth,
why He spared my life,
and is this burning desire His will...or is it just my will?
Is it driven by Him as a method of steering us in the right direction?
Or is it self-driven just because I want it so badly?
Sometimes, it can be so hard to separate.

In all my searching and crying out to God for direction,
one Scripture has come most often to my mind.

"Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
Psalm 37:4 

I am asking God that if this is a self-driven ambition,
if it is not in line with His will,
to please take the desire for it from me.

As hard as it would be to let the dream go forever,
I know deep in my heart that it would be the wisest thing to do,
if it is not a part of His perfect plan for us.

So, I ask.
I seek.
I knock.

I know the answer will be given.
I believe with all my heart I will find His reason for leaving me here and giving me that choice.
I am convinced that the right door will be opened unto us...in His perfect way and time.

So many times, I want an immediate answer.
God doesn't operate nor is he bound by my personal timetable and demands.
He is sovereign.
His thoughts are so far above mine, as lofty as I may imagine mine to be.
And even when our dreams involve noble aspirations of serving Him in a certain capacity,
they still may not be in His plans.

This is what I am trying to figure out.
In the meantime, I hold on to my precious memories of that night...
when He was there....close enough to touch.
And I grasp tightly to His words and affirmation that He needs me here...
right where I am.


  1. Hi,

    I know you don't know me, but a while back, I stumbled onto your blog somehow and read the post "A Virtuous Wife", and let me tell you; it's exactly what I needed then and I've NEVER forgotten it. When you are going through something hard and God directs you to something with just the right words, it is an amazing comfort and promise. So, if you're wondering what (some of) your work is; I can assure you that it is to reach out to people on this blog. Your post was one of the most powerful, helpful posts to me. So thank you for that. :)

    As far as your question--yes, I do believe you will be led to know what is right. I often find that when I am questioning whether it is God or myself wanting something; there is a peace that comes from God's desire, and there isn't one if it's my own. Not something you can explain, really. Just peace. Sorry if that doesn't help. That's all I've got for now. ha, ha.

    Anyways, I hope you can find your answer soon, and thanks again for your wonderful posts. :)

    1. Oh, my! I sit here...tears streaming...while reading your precious words! You will NEVER know what your comments meant to me today. My prayer is that God will BLESS YOU abundantly for listening to His voice and minding His nudge to sit down and convey His message to me. I am SO grateful the blog post helped you through a difficult time...knowing this makes it all worthwhile. YES, you are so right...your description about the peace that comes when it is God's and not your own desire. I know exactly what you mean by that. You DID help me...tremendously. Your words were just what I needed to hear. I cannot thank you enough...I can only hope that God will reveal my gratitude to you by way of many blessings!!! Lots of love to you, Cheryl

  2. I sometimes wonder why Jesus took our Christopher at 29; but, it was at the ICU, he gave his life back to Him. And, he also had a vision of Jesus. I don't know how he saw Jesus, but through a series questions, that he could blink yes and no to, I knew who he saw in the vision. It was the head nurse that told me he had a vision. The other nurses wanted to on standby to revive him, but she said, "no." It was several weeks later he died from infection. I will try to copy the story I wrote and send it to you.

    Jesus gave you a gift. All the times I was depressed and wondered why he did not take me, I would have loved to see Him. However, He had other plans for me. And, I don't want to be anywhere else now. I want to go when it is time. Not one moment sooner.

    You minister on this blog--you make me want to be more like you--you are such a sweet Christian. I guess we just need to be more like Jesus.

    1. Oh, my dear friend! Your words are like goads....urging me onward, encouraging me to keep going, giving me strength. I am SO sorry about your loss...it is so hard to understand, and I cannot even come close to imagining the pain in your heart. I am eternally grateful that Christopher gave His life to Jesus in that ICU room, and to know that he saw a vision of Him gives you that precious, added assurance. I would love to read the story you wrote about this. I have such an interest in things like this, and I am still very deeply moved by what I experienced that night. I wish I could have seen Him clearer...but His presence was so real, I almost feel like I could have touched Him, had I reached out my hand. I am SO thankful He did not take you, sweet friend. I am so glad you are still here, and it is wonderful to see how He uses you to bless others, especially me. I cannot thank you enough for all you said....YES, the cry of my heart is to be more like Jesus. Becoming that....more like Him is an often painful process. I made a new years' resolution in 2011 to KNOW Jesus....REALLY know Him. Whew! What followed was a series of intense fiery trials that seemed to follow a long line of succession. But, in the depths of those sorrows, Jesus walked in there....He was the fourth man in the fire with Kevin, Zachary, and me! Praise God! And each time He has led us out of those furnaces of suffering, we have walked out free from the shackles and ropes of bondage that we entered them with. The heat is only to burn off our binding ropes. I am so blessed by your words and thank you SO much for stopping by. Love you, sweet friend!