For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:8 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
This past week I’m pretty sure I had a brush with death. I’ve been having a bit of pain between my shoulder blades and also a crushing fatigue. For the longest it’s been all I can do to drag myself through my daily duties, always longing to crawl into bed about 8:00 each night. Any time I could go to sleep, I did. My wife and sons had gotten used to the fact that I was going to sleep all afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays if I didn’t have anything pressing to do. I was just exhausted. I thought my tiredness was just because I was getting older, added to the fact that I get up at 5:00 most mornings.
But on Wednesday morning my cardiologist found out that I didn’t just have aging and simple fatigue. During a heart catheterization, the doctor found a 100% blockage in my left anterior descending coronary artery. That’s the artery they call “The Widow Maker”. It’s the same one that killed Tim Russert last year. The only reason that I hadn’t died was that while my artery slowly clogged, a tiny vessel had grown that re-routed my bloodflow to my heart. The doctor inserted two stents in the artery to bypass the blockage.
When I was a little boy, I asked my Daddy, “Do you want to go to Heaven?” My father was a devout Christian man, who knew God’s Word, and also knew his Lord. I will never forget his answer, as he looked at me with his blue-as-the-ocean eyes. He said, “Oh yes, Son, I want to go to Heaven. I want to see the Lord. But if a bus drove up right now taking people to Heaven, I think I would wait for the next one.”
At the time he said that, I thought it was a very strange answer. But this past week I understood his thinking completely. When I was on the operating table this week, they had given me some Valium, but I was awake. I understood my Dad’s thinking perfectly. I love the Lord, and I want to see Him. I don’t love Him as I ought, I don’t love Him the way He deserves to be loved, but I’m working on it. I want to see Him, and I want to be with Him forever. But if a bus drove up taking people to Heaven, I’d wait for a later one.
I don’t think I’m being selfish, but there are things I want to finish here on the earth.
Possessions don’t mean that much to me because I know that I can’t keep them anyway. There aren’t too many things I want to have, but there are lots of things I want to do, if it’s God’s will. I want to watch Susan’s hair get gray and for us to have matching rocking chairs so I can sit beside the love-of-my-life. I want to finish raising my fine sons and to help them get started in adult life. I want to spend more time with my loved ones and friends. I want to pastor my church, and to love my people, and to see them grow in Christ—especially the babies. I want to continue to be able to work at my job—and continue to teach Latin to high school kids. I want to write my columns every week—because that seems more important than ever now. And later on…grandbabies.
I need to tell you something. When I was on the operating table, I really wasn’t scared a bit. Not because I’m brave, or because I was full of narcotics, but because The Lord was with me. And I was surprised at what I was feeling. I wasn’t filled with a fear of Death, but with a desire to live. I really, really, wanted to live. And I really, really, wanted to finish my life.
So here’s the point. So many days we drag ourselves along and belly-ache about our lives. Our sinuses are plugged, it’s raining outside, there’s not enough money to pay the bills, and the spouse and kids are whiney. But when we come to the place where we might lose our lives, suddenly reality becomes very clear. We cling to life with both hands. The thing that we’re always complaining about – life – suddenly becomes what we adore most. We just need to realize this every day—without having to have a brush with death.
I’m so glad God gave me a second chance—especially a second chance accompanied by feeling so much better now that my heart is working right. I’ve still got the same circumstances, and I’ve still got the same problems. But things are different. God is so good. Life is so beautiful. It’s always been this way—but now I just see it a little better. Let’s conduct ourselves so that we’re always ready to get on the bus. But let’s live lives of love while we wait for the next one.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad” (Sing that to the title to the tune of “Secret Agent Man) He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and is beginning his third decade of being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 17) and Seth (age 14) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church, where the people are spoiling the preacher with fruit baskets and greeting cards. You can cheer him with a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.