Never have I written such a pressing column. Never have I committed pen to paper the way I have now. If you haven’t heard the news, I had a seizure this week and almost lost my life after I stopped breathing. Eyewitness accounts say I turned blue and lost a pulse so two brave AppState students administered CPR. In the twilight moments between life and death I saw something. Now before you turn the page of the paper or click away and think this is another “Come and find Jesus” moment, I implore you to trust me and your best angels and hear me out.
I saw my late Uncle John and my late friend Abbey. I saw them as clearly as I could see them the day they died, and I heard messages of resiliency and hope. I’ve made a conscious decision to keep some of these messages to myself, not to torture you but in the sure and certain hope that I can live out these moments in this sphere.
You see I went to Duke University, one of the finest research institutions in the nation. I have trained with some of the best theologians and held conversations with powerful people. So every time I heard one of these “near death” experiences I explained them away as a lack of oxygen and an opportunity for 10 seconds of fame.
But then life ends, even if but for a minute and suddenly all of that doesn’t matter. My master of theological studies didn’t stop my seizure; the best theologians couldn’t explain what I saw in that moment in the hereafter. Don’t get me wrong, I still am filled with doubt about many things. But what I am confident in more than ever is that this life matters to God.
I beg you to make life count. I beg you to make life matter for others. My whole life has been in the pursuit of God’s abiding love and this week I experienced it in weird and dynamic ways, but in seeing a long-dead uncle and friend, I have felt my faith restored. I have felt my life find purpose again. The love that has endured in my story will continue to endure because that love made me and will bring me home.
So here’s what you can take away: I don’t have time for the typical Statesville platitudes anymore, and you shouldn’t either. Love deeply, fiercely, and remarkably. Do so without regard to the cost or what your church or city council might say. Do what makes you happy and love the skin that you inhabit. Love others and show that love is the most powerful force in the world. Show someone they’re worth living for, because in the end, we’re walking each other home.
I love you all, thank you for reading this column these past eight years, and thank you for believing in me. Let’s keep writing and exploring the amazing love of God.
The Rev. Rob Lee is an author, pastor and Statesville native. Email him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @roblee4.