Last winter I experienced a sudden life-threatening illness. It came on so fast I didn’t really have a chance to realize what was happening. One day I felt a little more tired than usual, but no big deal. Less than 24 hours later I was in the back of an ambulance racing to the hospital with emergency health care workers trying to calculate my chances of leaving the hospital alive. I wasn’t unconscious, but I was only barely – with almost astronomical effort – able to focus on anything worldly going on around me.
But – as I now have a chance to go back and process that experience – the really salient thing about it is that God was right there with me the whole time. I did experience that – much more clearly than I experienced any worldly goings-on around me. So my experience of this close encounter was that it was (for me) primarily a spiritual experience.
I remember thinking how lucky I was because this was a win-win situation. Either I die & get to go be with Jesus, or I live & get to keep reading the Bible and spending time with my new best friend, the Holy Spirit. That was actually my first coherent thought at the time.
My next experience was that I heard God telling me, “Your choice,” and before I even had a chance to think, “Oh I’m going to need some time to think about that,” I heard myself saying, “I want to live.” So it was like the responding part of me and the thinking part of me were 2 different parts of me. As soon as the thinking part of me heard myself saying “I want to live,” the next thought I had with my head was, “Yeah, I’m okay with that.”
I’ve thought and prayed about that a lot since then (I do tend to over-think things!) and wondered why I made that choice. Was it the right choice? The wrong choice? I have wondered if it was the wrong choice more than a few times since then. What is God teaching me?
Recently a Christian friend asked me, “you said that Jesus gave you a choice, live on earth or to live in eternity with Him. Why did you choose to stay? I love my family, but I think I would have said I want to go with you Jesus.”
That’s a great question, and the only honest answer I have is that I don’t know why I said that.
The brain-thinking part of me thinks, “Well, I didn’t believe that was going to be my only chance ever to join Jesus in Eternity.” Like – it definitely did NOT feel like a “now-or-never” choice, as in, Eternity right now or you’re going to Hell when your time finally comes. The voice of God saying, “Your choice,” was definitely a supportive nurturing God who … I believed … would genuinely support me in either choice. It was a blessing, not a test.
I felt like I was too new to salvation – only 1.5 years earlier – and I felt like I still had a lot to learn in order to be ready to be who God needed me to be in His eternal kingdom. I hadn’t even read the whole Bible yet. The Holy Spirit was my constant companion, in all kinds of little and big ways guiding me away from sin and toward a more holy sensibility. I felt like I wanted to be a better citizen of God’s eternal kingdom than I would be if I went “now.” And I also felt like God has a purpose for me on Earth that I haven’t yet fulfilled, and I wanted the chance to do that.
… Or something like that.
I still do wonder whether I made the wrong choice, or whether I made that choice for the wrong reasons, maybe ones that I’m not even consciously aware of??
The one thing I do know is that whatever happened, it’s bringing me – Big Time – closer to God, and more tuned in to listening to Him all the time for every bit of guidance or wisdom or teaching He has to offer. And those little nuggets of wisdom are absolutely everywhere … all the time.
God is so Awesome!