Book Excerpt – Back to the Bottom of the Lake

So what would you be thinking? Severed spinal cord. Can’t breathe.

Can’t move. Can’t feel anything but a busted nose. Totally helpless. Certain that the next stop is eternity. What was I thinking? That I didn’t want to drown? Was I in a panic for air? Did I want my momma? Was I thinking that I didn’t want to die? Take a moment and think about what you might be thinking. Prior to that moment, I thought there were basically two ways people approached imminent death: kicking and screaming headed for eternal punishment or like Jesus on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” I had done what I was called to do. I’d run my race. I’d run it well and was ready for my reward.

I heard a story about a young boy who approached an older man while the man was weeding his garden. He asked the older man how he would spend the rest of that day, if he knew he was going to die that very night. The man responded simply, “I would finish weeding my garden.” I’ve always loved that story. To me, it describes a man so in tune with what he was created to do that when he faced death, he had no fences to mend, nothing left undone, no regrets, careless words, and opportunities missed. Just like Jesus on the cross—it is finished! Ahhh!

The people I admire the most will die totally spent, gas tanks on empty, squeezing every ounce out of everything God has given them. I have several friends who encourage me when I simply watch how they live, work, and play. We have all heard the expression “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I have never been a soldier, but I believe something wonderful can happen when a human being is faced with an all-consuming, horribly dangerous moment. The superficial in your life completely disappears, and you realize the only significant eternal truth: there is a God, and we need Him desperately. This kind of moment changes you forever. And to this very day, I thank God that I experienced this kind of moment on that particular day.

Facedown and helpless, I learned another way to head into eternity— embarrassed! I was certain I was about to meet my Creator, and I was embarrassed. I was blessed beyond all reason and took it all for granted. My parents and sister loved and supported me when I was at my most selfish. I professed to be a believer, but a close inspection of my life would reveal priorities that began and ended with me. I had been going hard and fast-pursuing a whole lot of trivial activities that had consumed and dominated my life. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was just a self-centered goof ball. But when all is stripped away, it becomes perfectly clear what is meaningful, significant, and eternal. I had spent seventeen years chasing stuff and very little time on the significant. Yet at that moment, the thing in my life that I had neglected the most became the most important and powerful—my personal relationship with God.

I’ve learned over the years that a lot of folks are in wheelchairs through no fault of their own. Minding their own business, always cautious, and out of the blue, something totally unpredictable changes their life forever. But there are also a lot of folks in chairs because they were idiots. How many times have moms and dads said, “If you don’t stop that, you’re going to break your neck!”? It is no coincidence that the majority of spinal cord injuries happen to males between the ages of sixteen and twenty. I would place my “accident” somewhere in between—with a heavy lean toward the idiot column. You see, I had this defective mirror. When I looked in this mirror, I saw a seven-foot-tall, bulletproof man who was smarter than most of the folks I knew. Well, that kind of thinking will get you killed. In reality, I was an immature seventeen-year-old child.

That moment, facedown, I never prayed to live. Death was not my biggest fear. A surprise audit and accounting of my life to my Creator horrified and embarrassed me. I simply begged for forgiveness for the goof that I had become, and forgiveness was given. I could not have told you that Philippians 4:6–7 said, “Give your worries to the Lord. Don’t worry about anything. And He will provide you with a peace that is beyond comprehension.” I could not have told you that 1 John 1:9 said that if we will confess our sins and put our trust in God, He will clean us up. But by the time I was pulled out of the water, I knew with certainty—live or die—I was going to be fine.

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