As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I’ve been reflecting on all the things for which I’m thankful. This year, I’m grateful simply to be alive.
If you had asked me a few months ago if I’m grateful to be alive, I’d have truthfully answered, "Yes." But I’m not sure that it hit me the same way it does now, to be deeply grateful for God’s preservation of my life.
You see, a few months ago, I almost died.
On July 20, I arrived at Singapore’s airport intending to be there a few hours while I waited for my connecting flight on my way to Vietnam for vacation. Instead of catching my flight, I had a serious medical crisis: I suffered a cardiac arrest.
There in the airport, people performed CPR on me for 59 (!) minutes. They administered six shocks to my heart to get it going again. It’s easy to imagine a CPR team giving up before the 59th minute. But they continued, and their work and perseverance saved my life.
A cardiologist I later spoke with couldn’t quite bring himself to use the word "miracle" but he was unable to explain my survival of the original incident and my ongoing healing.
It’s humbling to think that God might have intervened to heal me. Why would God choose me? What does this mean for the remaining time in my earthly pilgrimage? I don’t really have good answers yet, but I’m praying about this regularly.
For now, there are three big insights on which I am reflecting.
First, when I say my daily prayers now, I fervently bless God for preserving my life. And now I understand God’s preservation of other lives differently, too. I don’t know how long it will continue, but I experience each day as a profound gift. That gift was always true from the moment of my birth, but perhaps I took it for granted. I am grateful now each morning when I wake up — my habit of morning and evening prayer has taken on deeper and new meanings for me.
Second, when I first became aware of what had happened to me, I was struck anew by the precarious nature of my life — and of all our lives. As I thought about the possibility of dying, I realized that I’m unafraid of death. All these years, I intellectually believed that was true, but when the possibility gets serious you really ponder this stuff! Maybe you’ve had this experience.
But I am here to testify that I believe that Jesus Christ has conquered death and sin on the cross and in the empty tomb. God our Father raised Jesus to new life, and he can surely raise each one of us to new life, also. "Death no longer has dominion" is not an abstraction. By God’s grace, I am not afraid.
I do not know how long I will live. Because of my desire to bear witness, I hope I am given many more years! But I know I am ready to meet my Maker when that moment comes.
Third, and you might have figured this one out by reading this very blog post, I have some desire to share the Gospel with increased urgency. I’ve devoted much of my life to preaching the Gospel, and I have no regrets about any of that. But now I want to bear witness to God’s deep love of us and of God’s desire that we might live abundantly, both in this life and in the life to come.
God really loves you. Personally. And life is precious, a daily gift. Savor your time and be delighted by the gift of preservation.
Twice every day, I say a prayer called the General Thanksgiving. (It can be found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, page 58.) Maybe you’ll find it helpful, too as we pause to give thanks to God for all our many blessings this year on Thanksgiving Day.
"Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
"And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen."