“And now brothers I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?”~Frederick Buechner (The Magnificent Defeat)
Thirty eight years ago, my best friend and I embarked on an epic journey. Fresh out of high school and sporting my own set of wheels, I somehow convinced my friend’s naïve parents to trust him into my care for a road trip from Port Arthur to Mississippi and back. My ace in the hole was that our destination was a church camp and that the purpose of this extended soirée was spiritual growth. They consented and we departed. Oh, the feeling of youthful independence, conquering asphalt in a rust red tank officially identified as a ’65 Ford Galaxy, heating pork and beans for dinner at roadside parks, and singing off key at the top of our lungs to music blasting from state-of-the-art 8-track.
Dark-thirty in some obscure-to-me portion of Mississippi with radio blaring to stay awake behind the wheel, we navigated a blind curve without noticing an unlighted Rail Road crossing warning. Neither of us saw the sign in the dark because we were too busy talking to pay attention, so we emerged from the bend just as a train approached the intersection from the west. The train’s horn roared, I stomped the accelerator, and somehow we crossed the tracks just ahead of the train, feeling its draft as we plunged past. Stunned into silence, I pulled the car to a stop on the side of the road to allow time to collect what remained of our nerves and talk about what just almost happened. As we debriefed, we were convinced that God had rescued us from ourselves and decided that it was as good a time as any to prepare to die. We hastily scribbled a note to the effect that if anyone found us dead, they were to rest assured that we knew the Lord and that we wished the same for them. To cap it all off, we laid awake long enough that night to commit to memory what has become my life verse–Galatians 2:20. For the first time in my life, I had a glimpse of the truth that no one is ready to live unless they’ve tasted death in themselves.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, KJV)