Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Arms of Jesus

Both of my kids participate in the my local county soccer association. This results in my sometimes mingling with other soccer parents that I'd probably never meet otherwise.

One parent happened to be a semi-pro soccer player himself and (to me) seemed quite fit and active. His son looked like he may very well be on the same path to becoming quite adept with a soccer ball.

This gentleman that I just described recently experienced a serious heart condition that was obviously lurking for some time; however, it's manifestation was sudden and surprising. He ended up staying in the hospital for weeks.

I finally saw him at one of the games recently. I didn't recognize anything about him except his voice. He was frail and he couldn't walk due to atrophy, so he was going to watch the game from the passenger side of the parked, family van. He called my name as I was making my way out to the field to watch my son play; I was unwittingly passing by where he sat.

He talked about how he was totally caught off guard by his turn in health. He talked about all the tubes he endured-- even feeding tubes-- and all the lost weight. He talked about his sense of helplessness and his newfound dependency upon others for simple things such as getting a decent shave.

He strongly alluded to also having a near death experience. He described how he had a feeling that he was leaving this world when his heart condition finally came to the surface so suddenly.

He began to cry as he continued to describe how he thought he was going to die, but then he seemed to be in a warm place. He felt as though he was wrapped in an electric blanket. He became calm and felt safe.

He said that he didn't want to leave because he realized he was in the arms of Jesus.

I never had a near death experience, but I suspect that I'm slightly familiar with the feelings he described because of my exposure to Pentecostalism. I remember many such warm feelings during worship and praise. I have known moments of ecstasy where I totally lost my sense of where I was. I think I could identify with some of the feelings he described.

But, then he spoke of how he saw his wife and children. He thought of them and realized that he couldn't leave them. So, he chose to come back despite the beaconing warmth of Jesus' arms.

He was still crying as he talked. But, I became curious. Was he crying because he was so overjoyed to have felt the arms of Jesus, or was he crying because he almost died and could only barely hold on to life because he didn't want to abandon his family?

I wondered this because he spoke of the fear of never seeing his family again with a sense of agony. He talked about how his children have reacted to his being gone from home for so long. I do think he was very afraid-- but I cannot know his deepest thoughts.

He admonished me to trust in Jesus because now he's certain that he's real. He already assumes I'm a Christian-- and he already believed in Christ. But, he just couldn't help but be sure to mention how real Jesus has become to him now that he's had such an experience.

I was very much like that after I had spoken in tongues for the first time. I remember it quite well.

His appeal was emotional and certainly compelling. But, I also know that such feelings can come from totally within ourselves.

I didn't debate him. That was not the time for such a conversation. I'm just glad he survived his life-threatening aliments and remained in the land of the living.

But, I'm still not convinced his tears were of joy for being in the arms of Jesus. I believe he was simply afraid for it all to end so suddenly-- without any warning.

Again, I cannot know how he truly felt. I can only speculate and impose my own bias thinking upon his words.

Besides-- even if he did cry because of fear (and not joy), I certainly cannot say that I blame him for his tears. I'd probably cry just the same.
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