Last week, a 37 year old Ohio auto mechanic was declared dead by his medical team. His heart had stopped beating for over 45 minutes. As the nurses were preparing his body for the family to say their last goodbyes, Tony Yahle suddenly started showing signs of life. He fully awoke five days later and has gone back to his normal life, with no medical complications. He attributes the recovery to his faith and he is thrilled to have his life back!
During that same week, Martin Manley of Kansas City experienced death. For more than a year, Mr. Manley, a 60 year old sports writer, meticulously planned and prepared for his suicide. He was in good health, self described as happy with plenty of financial resources. But he said he feared old age and wanted to control the time and manner of his death. He wrote on his website (that he prepaid to remain active for 6 months after his death), “I am glad that I was able to end it the way I wanted. I am thrilled to death that I left this website.” Mr. Manley called 911 from a police station parking lot and then shot himself.
The two experiences could not be any different. One embracing life, one giving it away. One acknowledging that God controls the terms of life, the other seemingly determined to “have it his way.”
As I have been thinking about the whole range of emotional, psychological and spiritual approaches to death, I came across a quote by James Calvert, an 19th century missionary to the cannibals in the Fiji islands. As his ship arrived at the islands, the sea captain urged him to turn back. He said, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.”
Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”
“We died before we came…” I believe Calvert was referring to the passage found in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Calvert’s life had meaning and purpose. He served a master and he recognized that his “old” life that was lived for self, had died. He “died” to that life before ever leaving for Fiji. Since his salvation and call to the ministry, he was focused on new meaning, purpose and resolve. His perspective on death was clear.
This week might be a great time for you and me to get a new perspective on living and dying too. We might want to clarify that the first death, the spiritual death to self that occurs when we make Christ the Lord of our lives has happened. (With our position in Christ secure, it sure makes the second death easier to consider.)
And then we might want to ask ourselves some hard questions, questions like “What circumstances do we want associated with our life and death? “What really matters? For whom will it matter? What can I be doing now to impact eternity?”
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel