Freefall : How I Found Life By Dying

World champion freediver Guillaume Nery does something extraordinary at Dean’s Blue Hole. This is the deepest blue hole in the world, measuring 663 feet to the bottom floor.

Filmed entirely on “breath hold” by French champion, Julie Gautier.

My daughter Nicole shared a video with me today on Facebook and she could’t possibly know it is an amazing way for me to describe the emotions surrounding the near death experience I had in January 2008. Even the lyrics here fit this experience.

Through a bad tooth, I developed a serious heart infection that required open heart surgery. During that surgery, a rare complication took place that killed the majority of my digestive system. I was put into a medically induced coma and given powerful antibiotics to fight the massive infection.  Without much hope for my survival, they woke me from this coma to say goodbye to my children and family. I describe this in the “12 hours to Live Story” 

 I will do my best to describe what happened later that night:

near_death_experience

I became aware of all the sounds in my room. I was in intensive care and could hear all the machines around me monitoring my heart rate and function. At first, I thought I was dreaming…

I saw a vision of me suspended in water about 100 feet below the surface. Above me (much like in the video) was sunlight filtering down and below me was dark blackness, I could not perceive a ocean bottom. I began to float downward. and as I let go, I could hear the machines making a steady sound like “BEEEEEEEEEP” as I floated down. Then I began to swim upward and as I did,  could hear the machines making that normal rhythm sound like “beep…beep…beep…..beep. I let go again and floated down and again heard the machines making the sound of arrest like “BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP”

I did this a few times kind of playing around, until I became convinced that I was not in fact dreaming, that this was real and I was at the edge of death. I stopped playing around, it got real serious..

ALL AT ONCE, a brightest of glory  broke through the surface and surrounded me in the most incredible feeling of peace and perfection that I cannot possibly describe in words. It was awe inspiring and wonderful. Perfect beyond imagination and contained all life and deepest grace and Love all at once. Breathless and in absolute awe……I never wanted to leave that place!

There was no darkness I was enveloped in marvelous light.

I have to say my next thought was all about me. I never wanted to leave this place, kids or no kids, family or no family I wanted to stay right here forever….but then..

man_in_lightI thought of my children. I considered that they would be without a father and I was transported to future events they would face s without me. It was my own “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment where we see that just in our existence we touch so many around us, but it did get me to consider survival. Then I had the most profound conversation of my life. I perceived a voice not with my ears but within my being. The tone of this voice was like nothing I had ever heard or ever have heard again. Too bad I’m not a poet, let me just say that it was the very song of life….

The conversation was simple;

I heard, ” Do you want to live or do you want to die?… I knew this was the edge of death and it seems I had a choice.

In a flash my life was before me. I could see nothing that I wanted to go back for, other than my children, and even in that I thought I had done such a terrible job they really had no use for me. Then a terrifying thought came: I thought to myself “I’m not ready to give account for my life”, I’m not ready to ‘face the boss” and tell him what I had done with the gift he so readily gave me. Please understand that in this place, it felt like God had nothing but love for me. finally I could clearly see that he was not threat and that he only denied for me in my life that which would hurt me, and never denied anything that would bring me life.

I carefully answered: “I want to live, but I want a different life than I had before, you’ll have to do that” …THEN LIKE A BEAMING SMILE the light went back up in a flash leaving me again where I was with sunlight filtering down and blackness below me…I fell back into the coma where I remained for 15 days while I fought back to life.

That was my experience and the message was simple: I am loved beyond anything I can conceive of and all of Gods desire is to be with me forever and he’s totally crazy about me. All that and I had a choice, that’s it. No great secret message or new secret insight just my own free will and choice to accept him on his simple terms…..surrender and fall in love with him for eternity. In this experience, something so incredibly simple yet dramatically powerful occured and gave me a new clarity and boldness to face everything that has come after.

During those 15 days much like the diver in this video when he is clawing his way back up to the surface, I was clawing my way back to life. Then, something beautiful happened when i woke up. Like in the video when he breaks through the surface and takes his first breath, my first breath of back to consciousness was in the arms of my oldest daughter where I woke up crying “your here”…”your here”…”I’m alive, I’m alive!!!

Astonishing to me is what a writer God is when he is in charge. Our lives are transformed from confusion and sadness to a living poem…

Also quite amazing is that all I considered that night and in the 15 days that followed were my real treasure. I have experienced allot during my life but there was nothing else, just them. The incredible treasure called Michelle, the honor of knowing Christopher, the passion I feel for Laura and the affection of Nicole. All such rare and precious gifts. I found out that all along it was only relationships that mattered at the base root of life. It makes sense after all because God is the restorer of relationships, that is his heart.What a debt I cannot ever repay to God who gave me time to love them now. What an amazing heavenly father I have to do that for me!

near death expereinceWhen I woke up I was completely rearranged. You could not tell it by the way I was talking in those early days, as i was experiencing a common thing called “ICU psychosis” it is when after trauma you cannot tell dreams from reality and has to do with the anesthesia. I can tell you there are allot of funny stories about how I was behaving and God allowed this to show me the difference between being ICU psychotic and the profound clarity I felt at the edge of death.

It was here that I understood the difference between my body and my spirit. As my body failed, I lived on, with even more clarity than I had ever experienced in my life to this point or after.

Looking back over this all I have come to some foundational conclusions:

  1. I believe in  Hebrews 9:7 that says “people die once and then they are judged”, and It’s Gods will to be  in fellowship with me eternally.
  2. God is love but  just and sin separates me from him. It’s my simple childlike  faith in Jesus makes me justified before him. I choose my eternal destination by accepting Christ.
  3. I am justified by faith and not works, nothing but my surrender is of any value, and even that is a gift God gives me.
  4. God loves us beyond anything we can possible imagine as he is the perfect loving father. Nothing I can do can change that.
  5. God allows everything for my eternal salvation, and has given me choice after choice to choose the path of life.
  6. It is not Gods will to induce suffering. Suffering happens because we live in a fallen world. We have free will so people make bad choices
  7. I must live by faith and not by sight,  with the Holy Spirit leading me in everything that I choose

I came away with knowing the difference between my spirit and my flesh and feelings and that helped shape my decisions after this point.

 Reborn: Witnessing The Glory

The choice I made to live was my first real surrender. looking back over my answer when I said “I want a different life, you’ll have to do that” was my surrender to give my life completely to God as I knew that there was nothing I could go back to that could possibly construct a life that would fulfill me. This was just the beginning of  living a life in the spirit and it’s wasn’t magically all different and I made mistakes, surrender is an ongoing process. However,  God has given me a radically different experience than I ever had before. Some things have happened over the past 3 years that have put my life into focus in an amazing way.

Also and most important, I needed healing at a deep level far beyond the counselors or group therapy I had attempted in the past. I needed a real relationship with the life giving  Jesus.

In terms of what I witnessed, I have to say that within a few suspended moments, just seconds really, stripped away all the noise of life, and for the first time I knew what it was to “BE STILL AND KNOW I AM GOD” …it took a flatline to shut my head up!

This instilled a childlike faith into me and it changed the way I approach everything…I have to say there is no experience on earth like a living relationship with Jesus, and comforted by the Holy Spirit, it has transformed me and blown me away!

Today, I live with the full armor of God and I’m more than a conqueror, and how I dealt with the medical challenges that followed all this shows that….. I have life through Jesus who saved me and I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me. 

experienced something so very very holy that I can’t describe so I won’t make conclusions , but I sure didn’t see some impersonal “god of the universe” or “great force” what I witnessed was so very personal.

While this experience held no “secret revelation” not found in the bible, what it did for me was to made the word of God absolutely literal that I know when I read scripture like this that this is a literal place existing right now as I write here, and that since I am not a poet I wont try to describe how this felt, Revelation gives us the literal view of what’s to come and when I read scripture like this now I long to go back there!

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.””

I believe in Jesus and he same spirit that raised him from the dead now lives in every believer, so stop and think about that carefully for a minute…….What hope, joy  and empowerment it gives a believer to walk as more than an over-comer in life. Before this experience Jesus was a concept but after just getting a glimpse of his glory and love, and it is my certainty that I will be with him throughout eternity. I am ready to die anytime, I have no fear. 

life after deathIt is also that if I had died that night I am not sure where I would have gone. Could it be that I would have experienced that perfection and love and then been torn away from it forever because of my rejecting Jesus as Lord of my life up to that point?

Could I have fallen into an abyss of darkness after having experienced such perfection?

Seeing him falling down into total darkness, I couldn’t imagine being lost forever in that, besides what a waste anyway to be separated from such indescribable glory…..

I’ve spent the past 6 years pondering this, and recently I have come to believe that since I was a church going,  intellectual “christian” at best ( if there is such a thing), not really committed to letting Jesus be Lord of my life, I’m not sure I would have heard Jesus say “come in, I know you” so is it possible I might have descended into darkness?…. I don’t know for sure but this is the most important issue any human can face, the question of eternal destiny…

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” – John 3:16 ( The Message)

Accepting Christ is so simple and I have found that having him as my first love and making him Lord of my life, I find the issues of my powerlessness, drop away by his power. It’s amazing, I don’t have to “try hard” anymore or struggle not to be caught in perpetual ongoing failure. When I take my eyes off him though the train can go off the tracks real easy.

Today, what is important is the opportunity that I might in a small way help do God’s work here and now. That keeps me excited, engaged and full of life, hope and purpose.

And that is what God always wanted me to experience anyway, wouldn’t you agree?