There are some who would advise me not to tell this story on myself. Their reasoning would be sound; they believe others would think less of me. They think if you relate details of your sordid past – the “knowledge is power” thing – you open up too much of yourself. I take a different tack. If I can tattle on myself (instead of other people which they likely prefer to do!) to convince others of the wrongness of something or to extoll the grace of God evidenced in a sinner’s life, my own, then it is worth the risk to me. I’ll give someone else a break and stick my neck out.
In my younger days I was quite the heathen. I could posit blame on my friends, relatives, parents or society at large as all were less than perfect. Others surely influenced me but nobody put a gun to my head. I made the choices and many were bad. Please remember that. Don’t blame others. Don’t play the victim card. “For all have sinned…” (Romans 3:23). That means you and me.
It was dark and very late at night. I was riding shotgun in an old flat-front Dodge 6-cylinder van heading toward Stuttgart, Arkansas down a deserted stretch of highway. Me and the driver, a buddy of mine (I won’t name names) had been drinking and were planning to visit a friend of mine. In a moment of inebriated stupidity, I laughingly suggested for him to steer between the lines in the road – the white ones mind you. He, by nature disinclined to refuse any dare, obliged without hesitation. Being a good driver, even if a bit out of his head, we began playing “dodge-em” and he did pretty well for a few minutes.
Then he lost it.
The rear end of the van tried to come around which prompted him to over-steer. He swerved sharply to prevent a skid but instead the van started to fish-tail badly. This went on for a few seconds and we left the road on the right starting down a fairly steep embankment. By then I had gripped the open window brace with one hand while holding on tight to a can of beer (remind me to tell you sometime about the lethality and stupidity of imbibing intoxicating beverages).
I looked out the front window and up ahead loomed a sawed-off telephone pole, a thick one, not one of those spindly things you see in town. We were approaching it fast and it was centered squarely in the middle of the windshield. I knew instantly there was no way on earth we were going to miss hitting it; we were going too fast, we were rolling over grass and my buddy still did not have full control of the vehicle. Almost reflexively I put both feet on the dashboard and pushed against it to brace myself for the impact I knew was coming, still holding on to the can of beer with my other hand while what was left of its contents sloshed all over me.
I realized I was going to die. There was no doubt about it. I stared death in the face; the scythe was on the downward swing. I was seized with a strange sense of pervasive calm, a kind of hopeless, peaceful, resignation. I remember feeling a silent exhale of air as my heart fell, a surrendering sigh as if my very soul was preparing to exit my body. The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was that huge pole, eight or ten feet tall, standing off the ground, dead center of the van, mere yards away as we rushed toward it and our doom.
Then we stopped abruptly, not because we had hit the pole but because we had ran up on an embankment from a road that bisected the highway we had been traveling on.
By the very mercies of God my buddy had missed the pole.
All we could do is laugh insanely until we saw another vehicle approach. Thinking it might be a State Trooper we jumped out of the van and ran into some undergrowth. The only injuries we sustained came from that idiotic decision – multiple and painful lacerations from hiding in a blackberry thicket.
I would love to say that episode changed my life, but it did not. We got up the embankment and arrived at my friend’s house later that night. I am sure I praised my buddy for his remarkable skill.
It took a lot more trouble for God to bring me around but He spared me long enough to wake up.
So when I read that verse, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1), I think back on that night. The mercy of God saved me not my buddy’s driving which actually nearly killed us both. No one will ever tell me different. By all rights I should have died that night and died as a fool dies.
But I lived to die and be reborn years later when I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, dying with Him in the watery grave of baptism, therein calling upon Him to save me, having repented of my sins and confessing His name as deity itself as Scripture instructs. I now intend to fulfill the rest of that – presenting myself as a living sacrifice daily until the day I leave this mortal coil behind.
Perhaps you have had a near-death experience. Think back. Let it teach you something. View it as one of the many mercies of God. He spared your life. He gives you a perfectly good and acceptable reason to live. So, for now on out, let it be for Him.