Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
There is nothing like a near death experience to give us perspective on what really matters. A car blows through a red light missing your car by just a few feet. You get a call from the doctor’s office saying your recent test raised some questions and you need to come back for a second test. A close friend dies unexpectedly. And you look at your life differently. At least for a moment. But soon, we push those things out of our mind and go on as if nothing happened.
I was 33. Young and healthy. Ben was pastoring a small church in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. He was busy with the church, we didn’t have much money, we were far from my family and friends, I was very lonely and a bit overwhelmed as a mom of three little kids. It was easy to lose perspective.
Then one day everything changed. It started as a normal day. I was mowing down weeds on some land we owned in the woods not far from the church. Without warning, my heart rate jumped to over 250 bpm. I didn’t know what was wrong. I felt dizzy and my chest hurt. I thought it might be heat stroke. This was before 911 and before cell phones. So, when it didn’t go away, I packed the kids in the car and drove home. Once I got home I tried to reach Ben, it took awhile, but eventually he came home. One look was all it took for him to carry me out to the car and drive off to the emergency room.
It was a small-town hospital, but the staff soon jumped into high gear. Nothing they tried was working and soon everyone began to realize I was dying. I could feel myself floating away. I was surrounded by light.
And in a way I had never felt before, I could feel Jesus right there with me. And I felt more alive than I had ever felt before.
I called out to him, “What about my children. Who will take care of my beautiful children if I die? Who could ever love them like I do?” and then, not really aloud and yet as clear as any voice I have ever heard, Jesus said, “Whatever happens, it will be okay.”
And I was flooded with a sense of peace. Not peace that I would live, but peace that God was able to take care of my kids with or without me. Peace that he had my whole life and my death completely under his control. Peace that he was enough. Really enough. For life and for death. I relaxed in his presence and let myself feel his incredible joy and peace and life. It was an overwhelming amazing feeling. Like when you’ve been gone for a long time and you finally come home. Or when someone you deeply love has been gone for a long time and they finally are home. Or like when you finally find the one person you will love for the rest of your life. It wasn’t like dying – it was like I was finally living.
I was still aware of the doctor, and Ben who was in the room with me. But I was much more aware of Jesus and the closeness of eternity. And to be honest I didn’t want to live – I didn’t want to come back. But at that moment the doctor used a defibrillator, which pulled me fully back into the emergency room and into the moment.
The next 10 days were spent in cardiac ICU in the Twin Cities going through multiple tests to determine just what had happened with my heart. An electrophysiology study showed I have several spots in the ventricles of my heart that are able to make my heart beat over 250 bpm without warning like this whenever they choose. It was a miracle I had lived through this episode and most likely would not live through another. A Medtronic defibrillator was implanted in my chest which monitors my heart rate and shocks it back into rhythm whenever it misbehaves.
It is amazing how a moment like that changes your perspective. Life becomes crystal clear. Nothing matters except God and the people he puts in your life. Nothing else lasts. In the blink of an eye this world will be over. All of the things we worry about and fill our lives with. For each of us. Whether we realize it or not. Whether we want to think about it or not. Each moment might be our last here. And our first one in eternity. And God is much more real than anything here. And heaven is much more real than anything on this earth. And he is all that matters. He is all we need.
Even today I am always aware of the defibrillator implanted in my chest. I am always aware that at any moment my heart could go crazy. It doesn’t happen very often – but once in awhile - when I least expect it, my heart rate jumps to over 250 beats per minute and the computer in my chest responds with an all-consuming shock that brings my heart back to a regular beat. And every day I am aware that my heart isn’t very strong. I’m aware of my weakness. That my flesh and my heart may fail … today.
And in an unexpected way it is a blessing. It helps me live each day fully aware that it might be my last on earth – but more importantly my first in eternity.
I am always very aware that God is the one who holds me by my right hand. That earth has nothing I desire besides him. That he is the strength of my heart. My portion – all that I will ever need. That afterward – at the right time – he will take me into glory. And it will be AMAZING.
It is all about perspective.