Friday, January 18, 2013

Near-death experience

A STRANGER came charging at me. I was on my way home. It was 8:45 PM, and Padre Faura Street was drowned in darkness. Dressed in black shirt and jeans, the man looked nothing extraordinary. The glistening blade he held by his right hand was hard to miss.

He grabbed my right shoulder, pointed the knife at my abdomen, and demanded that I give him my cellphone. My initial reaction was shock. What followed was incredulity, for why would he want to steal my phone, the cheapest Nokia model available in the market months ago? It didn't even have a colored screen, and I had only bought it because of the built-in flashlight.

"'Di ko gustong gawin 'to pero kailangan ko ng pera," he said, never once looking at me in the eye.

I knew my life was at stake. I could get killed any moment. I pleaded the Lord for protection. I knew I was going to heaven anyway, but I didn't want to bleed to death—not that way.

"Bago ko ibigay sa iyo, kukunin ko muna 'yung SIM card, ha?" I said calmly. Without waiting for his response, I opened the phone's casing and released the centimeter-long SIM, containing important contact information.

I surrendered the phone to him. He was about to run away when I called his attention, "Teka, nakalimutan mo 'yung battery." And then he left.

Indeed, "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? / The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

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AS I WRITE this now, I ask myself: what if I had died right there and then?

In a sense, I would welcome it gladly. Death would end all my fleshly struggles in this world and my daily battles against sin. By dying I would "be with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23). Ah, to finally see Jesus Christ in glory, to fall prostrate at His feet, and to worship Him with other believers for all of eternity!

But God willed that I continue living, and I praise Him for it. I can still go on 24-hour shifts and finish my medical degree. I can have more opportunities to tell friends about God, "that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 2:20).

All who renounce their self-righteousness and put their faith in Jesus Christ are bound for heaven. That truth brings comfort to my tired and weary soul!

I remember what C.S. Lewis said,

"The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.' A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.” (emphasis mine)

So I thank the man who stole my phone. He refreshed my perspective: that I was made for another world, a world far better than this sin-soaked, earthly domicile. I desperately needed that reminder.

10 comments:

  1. Lance! Praise be to God that you are safe!!! I hope that it won't happen again. -AA

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    1. Yes, thank you, Aace! (And I haven't received the text you sent me in Pharma.)

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  2. Good to know you're still alive, Lance! I hope that guy finds something better to do with his own life soon.

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  3. I'm glad to read this. Glad because you are writing this after the fact. Keep safe.

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  4. I am glad you are safe, Lance. But it brings me greater joy that this incident made you direct your weary gaze to your undying, imperishable and infinite Treasure. (Who is mine too.)

    When the time comes - and it will - when the brush with his scythe becomes a final stroke, may we face Death with the peaceful, victorious joy that Donne had: "One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die." And then, moments after the darkness will have enveloped our sight for good, we will see Him, unveiled in all His splendor, face to face.

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    1. "Undying, imperishable and infinite Treasure"—I say amen to that. Ah, what an exciting prospect, Jef! Thanks; that really encouraged me.

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