I was spared last night.
Sometimes that happens in dramatic fashion, but doesn’t it truly happen every second that we remain awake? We are never guaranteed an earthly future. This life always ends.
Yesterday I took a final exam at 8 AM, labored over probability for two hours, went to lunch, then hit the road for a 967 mile drive home to South Carolina. I made a few stops along the way and at around 3 AM I found myself in some part of Alabama, driving on a mostly empty eight lane interstate. It was a little foggy at this point but ahead I could see blue lights flashing, possibly some bright yellow light, too? I slowed down and got behind the three cars I had been near for the recent stretch, turned my flashers on. When I was about a hundred yards away I could see the one police officer running frantically around the scene and I noticed that there was definitely a car on fire.
For the first ten seconds, that meant nothing to me but Steven Spielberg and bright lights. But as I got closer I started to feel sick. There’s a car on fire. In this moment of real life a car is on fire. There were people in that car. And when I say a car was on fire, I mean the entire car was engulfed in flames. We approached the cop car at a crawl and I saw him, twenty yards away, walking slowly to his car with his head down.
He was the only one on the scene. It hit me that his demeanor indicated that after his frantic search there was nothing he could do. There wasn’t a hint of hope on his face. It also occurred to me that we three vehicles shouldn’t be driving, even in that far outside lane, even at a crawl. There was debris everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I was constantly thinking that I shouldn’t have kept going, but now I was in the middle of it. I looked left, past the officer, and regretted it immediately. I saw who was once someone’s son, maybe father, friend. I jerked my head back forward and followed the cars for the next thirty yards to the other side. There was an exit immediately and the tremor in my hands told me I shouldn’t be driving right now.
My best friend was in the passenger seat. As I pulled into the gas station we saw and heard ambulances coming from multiple directions. And you know what we did? We sat there and cried desperately. And I was thinking, “What’s wrong with me? I don’t know him. Am I freaking out because we missed it by maybe two minutes?” But then my mind played out a scenario where we both were in it, and the only thing that I wished was that if she died, that I would, too, because I wouldn’t have wanted her life on my hands, knowing that she came to Dallas just to ride back with me. But I didn’t think, “Oh, thank God I’m alive.” I didn’t. I kept wondering about that man. I thought, “God, where is he? Is he with You? What about the car? Were people stuck inside? God, how many souls right there? How many?”
And I thought I should check my tires for debris. But as I looked at the tires I saw one thing, and it wasn’t tread. I got back into the car and dialed my brother, hoping that at three AM he would tell me not to worry about debris. As it rang I found myself alternating between sobbing and pulling myself together so that I didn’t scare him when he answered. But he didn’t wake up. So I pulled around and filled my tank up, heard more sirens heading to that scene less than a mile away.
I looked at my friend and said, “I have to get away from those sirens.” I pulled onto the interstate and set my cruise control to exactly the speed limit, stayed in the right lane. As if that would mean anything.
For countless miles we rode in silence. (Which I never ever do while driving, ever.) A phrase from the Bible that has permeated my mind constantly for about a year is, “perfect love casts out fear.” Over and over it occurs to me. And for the past month I’ve been trying to understand it better. Perfect love casts out fear. If I could rest fully in God’s perfect love, I would have no fear.
But I thought of that man and I was so scared for him. And it hit me that my fear was tied to my imperfect love. I feared for him because the love I had for him as a human couldn’t save him, from anything. And it hit me that when God says that perfect love casts out fear, He means that His love casts out fear, because His is the only perfect love.
I could say that I don’t want to scare you, but I do! I do, I do, I do. I want you to be scared for your life. The drama in the phrase “You aren’t promised tomorrow” is justified. It is justified! Because you aren’t! Oh, my friend, you aren’t. You see that this life ends, don’t you?
Since last night I’ve thought over and over that if that man wasn’t redeemed that I wished it was me. Guys, this isn’t some dramatic self-sacrificing statement. Let me explain. I am redeemed! My life has already been spoken for, my soul already redeemed from darkness, my existence guaranteed to last forever in God’s perfect presence. I will die, and when I wake it will be in His likeness, in His new creation, into a world that won’t end, that sees no sadness, no sin. That’s what’s in store for ME and many others who have received it.
It’s not for everyone; it’s not for those who haven’t received it, turned to Christ, and believed in Him alone. So when I say that I would rather die than someone who has yet to receive it, I mean it, because this earthly existence of mine is superfluous in a sense. It’s meaningful in that God has work for me to do as long as he keeps this heart beating. But it’s superfluous in that I don’t need these years. I am already saved from a life without my God and there’s nothing else I need from this world. My supposed sacrifice isn’t really a sacrifice because I lose nothing. I lose fifty earthly years and gain forever. You do the math.
But I fear for so many of you. So many of you, my friends, those I haven’t met. Can you think for a minute from my point of view? If you have not accepted Jesus having laid down his life for you, declared him as your king, and worshiped the God who formed you, you should be scared of more than dying. You should be scared of not living again afterwards. Forever is a long time, so much longer than this life that you stress over every day. And this life promises you not a single thing and its end can always be near. You can be young and strong and you can die an hour from now. You can die and wake up to a misery that’s worse than anything you can possibly imagine. You can wake up to your Creator saying, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
But He offers that perfect love. He offers to know you. Please don’t assume you can receive Him at any time, please don’t assume that everything will be alright, please don’t wait to pluck peace from its only source. Satan would have you wait forever. He would have you wait forever.
Let me explain it more to you. Look it up. Ask somebody. Look! And you will find Him, He promises that. Seriously though, ask me. (firstname.lastname@example.org). And know that every second that I look you in the eye and talk about the things of this world, I am burning to talk about the one true God with you and smacking myself for every second of cowardice in which I don’t.
Because I love your soul more than your body and I hope more than anything that God calls you. I hope you don’t assume that He’ll call, I hope you don’t spend your whole life depending on your own supposed goodness. I hope He brings you to your knees. Because the Lord of glory did not come to save the righteous, but sinners.