James 4:13-14 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the "Days of Awe", a short but intense time for deep introspection and repentance as the "New Year" begins. During this time, I was spending a few days in Eilat with my family as we concluded hosting a tour with 40+ people in Israel for two weeks. One morning, I took my daughter Elianna snorkeling off the coral reefs in the Red Sea, and suddenly found myself in a precarious and frightening situation. As we were swimming, I became separated from my snorkel vest which rapidly drifted away from me in the strong wind that was blowing. As I was losing sight of the vest I found myself faced with a difficult decision: stay with my daughter.... or go after the vest. I decided to stay with Elianna, since we were in roughly 20 feet of water.
After snorkeling for half an hour, we finished our underwater adventure. Returning to the car we started off, and there, in the distance, was my neon green snorkel vest.. "Now", I thought, "I can go after this $15 vest, with my daughter safely in the car". I jumped out and back into the water, and began swimming fast as I could toward the vest, but after three or four minutes of hard effort I suddenly took in a large gulp of salt water, and found myself unable to breathe, coughing and struggling to catch my breath as the water entered my lungs. Now the water was maybe 25 feet deep, and the snorkel vest still 20 feet out of reach with the wind still driving it away from me. And so, another decision: do I still go after the vest – or return to shore? I clearly decided to return to dry land. But now, the swimming was much more difficult with the strong wind against me. I could just about doggy paddle, unable to take a deep breath with the water in my lungs. I honestly thought, "This is the end of my life – I am dying to save a $15 snorkel vest!"
Now I have the luxury of looking back on this experience, genuinely feeling that this was the end of me... and I can say it gave rise to serious introspection and evaluation of what I have done in life. For those 10 minutes struggling to return to shore, I wasn't thinking about my salvation, or what might happen if I die now. Believe it or not, my most pressing thought was whether I'd prepared my kids for these "Last days". My deepest concern was – "Are they ready for what is coming!?"– and I also struggled with regrets about other things I could have done better!
The Bible declares that, “All things work together for good for those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose.” I definitely see this scary experience as a wake-up call to focus on preparing not only my children, but also my family – including my readership family -- for what the Bible describes as a "time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation." [Daniel 12:1]
Just look around at this world, literally careening toward the apocalypse. Yes, it still may be a few or even several years away, but the time seems to be speeding up and Jacob's trouble [Jeremiah 30:7] seems just beyond the horizon. Some say we will not be around for it, but just in case we are, are we truly ready? I, for one, am taking this little adventure to heart. You also might ask, if you found yourself drowning to death, what might you be thinking and feeling, and what might the Lord be saying to you? As for me, the Lord used a $15 vest to refocus my life. My prayer is that you also might be encouraged to take stock and make changes accordingly. As many others have shared, near death experiences have a way of reprioritizing our values. And God knows that will bear eternal consequences.