Have you ever almost died? I grew up on the water; our family was usually found in lakes, rivers, or creeks during the summers. One year, there had been some flooding, and the river we were rafting on had changed. A tree forked the river in a place it hadn’t before. For some reason, maneuvering around it was confusing, and we quickly collided into the tree. All we could do was brace for the impact.
I must have been around fourteen, and after growing up on the water, I felt that I no longer needed a life jacket. For all my confidence, I quickly sank beneath the water. I couldn’t see, so I swam in the direction that I believed was up, only to feel like I was pushed down again. I was tumbling around so much that I kept swimming into the river bed. It didn’t take long before I knew I was running out of air, so I did the only thing that made sense, and let go. I stopped panicking, I stopped swimming, and I just let the water carry me. I have never felt more peace than I did in that moment; I actually felt as if I suddenly had more air.
Obviously, I survived the ordeal; my father saw me floating down stream and pulled me up to the surface. Suffice to say, I wore a life jacket after that.
Now, it doesn’t take a philosophy major to see why I brought this up. I’m sure this story, once broken down into its simplest of parts, parallels the experience of many people in how they came to the Lord—maybe it even recounts your story. Still, it was an intensely spiritual experience for me. In those few seconds, I was as surrounded by His presence as the rapids that threatened to drown me. I feel like I learned more about the peace God brings, how He absolves the fear of death, in that moment than any time in my life before or since. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3). Because I know someone eternal, I now know what it means to no longer fear death, and I hope that when my time comes, I can experience the kind of enrapturing comfort as I did in the river.