Serious as a heart attack... -Old Southern expression.
Perhaps it is overly dramatic of me to state that I stared into the face of death. A bit of a cliché I think.
Still, it is a strange and unique thing to experience and even stranger are the thoughts that pass through the mind at such a time.
Let me begin by confessing that the intensity of the pain brought to mind an old comedy routine of Richard Pryor's. It is odd, I know, but I couldn't help remembering his description of his own heart attack.
Don't even ask me why I laughed out loud as he lay on stage, microphone in hand, writhing in remembered pain, as he recited an inner dialogue between himself and the heart that was indeed attacking him.
My most vivid memory is the way he depicted his heart as a clenched fist, speaking to him in gruff, ominous tones.
I recalled this, as I lay in my recliner, as being so apt to what I was experiencing.
The pain came in waves, increasing and subsiding. Heartburn. I wondered? I took an Alka-Seltzer.
I can't recall at what point I prayed to God to take me if that was His purpose. Seeing that the pain was outside anything I have experienced (including a compound fracture of the leg), I recognized the distinctly possible nearness of my death.
I thought then of my wife and daughter. It broke my heart, I must say, to think of their grief, and I felt guilt for desiring even slightly the release of death.
Then I remembered what I should perhaps have thought of in the first place: King Hezekiah's prayer. As the godly king faced his own certain death, he wept and prayed to God for the sparing of his life for a while longer.
I wondered if Hezekiah felt that same sense of deep sadness at the thought of work left undone, tasks not accomplished and opportunities missed.
All this I reflected upon even in the midst of the pain. And I began to pray finally that God, in His mercy and wisdom, might grant me a while longer to work, to pray, to experience the joy of seeing dearly loved ones brought to Christ in salvation.
God spared Hezekiah's life for another fifteen years. God alone knows the plans He has for me. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me, as I have read.
It is easy, and perhaps even correct, to view all this as a reminder of life's fleeting nature, of the fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow and that our lives are in the hands of the One who made us.
I am reminded of the verse which says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."
When I ask for what purpose God spared me, I am brought back to a deeper question: Why save any of us at all?
In light of scripture, I can only answer: To serve Him wherever I am and with whatever means He gives me.
Grant it to be so, O God.