Have you ever had one of those moments where you were pretty sure you were about to walk into the light and see God? A moment when you were about to find out what’s on the other side of the curtain of this life?
In the winter of 1995, I had one of those moments while driving my beloved, blue, 1985 Toyota pick-up on a snowy day in Des Moines, Iowa. I was driving from Ankeny, IA to West Des Moines (usually about a 30-minute commute) to log some hours at a regional credit center for Sears, when I thought for sure I was going to meet Jesus. It happened so fast.
The whole drive had truly been a white-knuckle experience, as the roads were in horrendous condition. Prior to living in Iowa, my winter driving experience didn’t involve much snow or ice. So every time I took to the roads when it was snowy and icy, I always felt the tension of driving in lousy conditions. On this particular day, after watching several cars spin out on the highway, I was especially cautious and a bit high strung.
Then, after nearly an hour of being on the road, the conditions seemed to improve almost miraculously, and I was within a half-mile of my exit. I relaxed a little, for the first time in an hour. That’s when the moment where I questioned my future existence came into play.
My little truck traveled under an overpass where the snow and ice hadn’t melted as much as on other parts of the road. The back end of the truck, not having much weight, slid out to the side and suddenly I found my car moving the right direction, but facing perpendicular with the road. Problem was, this put the driver’s side of the vehicle right in the way of oncoming traffic. I tried to hit the gas, hit the brakes, and scream like a girl but none of it helped me right the truck. I continued to slide in the correct direction of the rest of traffic, while still facing 90 degrees in the wrong direction!
I looked out my driver's side window straight into oncoming traffic and that’s when I saw “it” -- the light. Actually, it was two lights. I was sure I was about to meet Jesus as I saw two bright lights coming straight at me. I was surprised that Jesus’ name was “Mack” but I wasn’t asking many questions at that point, since I knew I was about to see St. Peter at the pearly gate.
The next thing I remember is snapping back to this reality, and somehow the semi that had been coming straight at me was able to steer around me; the driver managed to jerk his rig around the front of my truck (which was still facing 90 degrees in the wrong direction!). At the same time I looked up in the rear-view mirror and saw several cars driving behind me by swerving onto the shoulder. Then boom! My wheels caught some dry ground and my truck shot straight for the concrete median the separated the two directions of traffic. Unbelievably I didn’t roll the truck but now I was destined to drive full speed into a concrete barrier.
At that point I did what any young, inexperienced driver would do: I screamed and slammed on the brakes! As the snow settled I started breathing again and realized I wasn’t at the pearly gates, and contrary to Kevin Costner’s assertions, I was still in Iowa, not in heaven. (Any sports movie geeks out there?) I had somehow managed to avoid being crushed by a semi, had only nicked one other car while doing a perfectly good driving stunt, and when I got out of my truck I realized I hadn’t hit the concrete barrier. I kid-you-not...I couldn’t put a credit card between my bumper and the concrete median, but I hadn’t made contact.
Friends, that’s what I call great driving.
Looking back at that moment in history, I know that it was a real possibility that I could have left this life and entered the next. I also know it wasn’t superb driving that saved my life, but it was definitely a moment in time when God intervened. I remember when I was finally able to cross the interstate, get to my exit and park my truck at work. The adrenaline surge left me and I started shaking because I knew how close I had come to death.
Most people have stories of when they were confronted with the possibility of death. Growing up, one of my pastors preached a message on “The Frailty of Man” -- and most of us have experienced just how frail this life can be! It’s terrifying when you look back and realize that things could have turned out differently for you (or someone you love), that life could have (should have?) ended for you, but something, someone, intervened to keep you alive.
The Overboard Life is ultimately about living this life to its fullest potential, taking advantage of the days God has given us. While we don’t know whether life will end tragically in the blink of an eye, or over time as we slowly fade away, we do know that this life will end. Every one of us is destined to face the termination of existence and in that moment, we will each meet our Maker.
This makes me want to keep two truths in mind. First, having a personal relationship with God is the most important step of faith any of us can ever take. Believing that God’s Son sacrificed Himself for our crimes, for our sins, and accepting His death as a holy payment on our behalf is fundamental to living the Overboard Life. You can’t live a life that pleases God, if you don’t first know Him personally. And you can only know Him personally if you’ll take the first, and most important, step of faith: trusting Him with your eternal destiny.
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is the basis for the second truth. Having a personal relationship with God frees me to live the Overboard Life of faith so I can live fully in the person God created me to be, doing what God created me to do. When I finally “walk toward the light” and meet my Maker, it will be a glorious experience because, as His child I’ll be returning home, and as His servant, I will have lived life to the fullest.
I hope you know God personally. If not, you can remedy that today, right now, simply by choosing to accept in faith, that Jesus died to pay the price for your sins -- a price you could never pay -- when he died on the cross and rose again three days later. In doing this you acknowledge that you have broken God’s holy law (Romans 3:23) and that only God’s sacrifice is sufficient to settle your debt (John 3:16).
I also hope you are living a life that pleases Him. If not, you can remedy that today, too! The same faith that draws us into a personal relationship with God, also sets us free to live a purposeful life that pleases Him. The Overboard Life is lived, in faith, every day, as we commit our moment to following the Lord. It’s not glamorous. It’s certainly not easy, but it is very simple: keep becoming who God wants you to be, so that you can do what God created you to do.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!