Eighteen days ago I was driving back home from a weekend spent with family on a Sunday night. There had been some heavy thunderstorms across the state of Texas that day, and the dark clouds still lingered low in the sky. While I was driving south on I-35, I noticed the sun begin to peek through the mountains of storm clouds up above. In all my life, I have never seen a sight in the sky as glorious as this one. It was as though the heavens had opened, and I remember silently asking God, “Is this what it will be like when you carry me home to heaven?”
Just moments later, I lost control of my car while driving 80 miles per hour, ran off the road, and somehow managed to get back up onto the road, but over-corrected and spun out to face oncoming traffic. Once my car finally came to a stop, I was stopped between the front and back tires of a moving semi. I placed my car in reverse and turned myself around and drove forward with the traffic, the same semi beside me and another semi directly behind me.
It all happened so quickly, but in the midst of the chaos I remember crying out to God, “Help me! Help me!” And he did. By his unmatched power and grace alone, neither I nor anyone else was injured, and the only damage to anyone’s car was that my car was out of alignment, which is a common and quick fix.
There were easily at least five ways I could have died instantly that Sunday night. But I didn’t. I cried out for God’s rescue, and he saved me. The Lord loves to rescue his children. I was well aware in the midst of the chaos that I was not in control. I firmly believe God sent his angels to protect me from the threats of death surrounding me that night. Although I thought he was coming to carry me home to heaven, he wasn’t ready to bring me home just yet.
One of the main memories I have from that night I pray I never forget and I feel compelled to share with you is this: if that Sunday night had been my last night on earth, I don’t believe God would have welcomed me home to heaven by saying, “I wish you would have done more for me. You just didn’t do enough. You could have done so much more. If only you had done more.”
Are you kidding me? While judgment day is a very real thing, for those of us who are in Christ Jesus, we have nothing to fear. I firmly believe if that Sunday night was the night God carried me home to be with him forever in heaven, he would have welcomed me with open arms and total delight. Let me say that once more, total delight. No disappointment, no bitterness – just complete and total delight. Because I am in Christ Jesus, everything God feels toward his Son, he feels for me. Because I am in Christ Jesus, it is impossible for God to feel anything toward me he doesn’t feel toward his own Son, Jesus.
As beautiful as that is, God continues to deepen my love for him as he shows me that not only will he welcome me home to heaven with open arms and total delight, but he welcomes me into each morning here on earth the same way. Total delight. My Heavenly Father delights in me. He adores me. Why? Not because of anything I have done or not done. It’s all because of what he has done. He adopted me as his daughter the moment I said yes to receive his gift of eternal life and love 20 years ago, and I have been safe in his love ever since, and forever will be. He is my forever rescue, and he is my delight.
My 17 year old cousin Tiffany died in a car accident when I was 13 years old. Jesus Christ was her delight. After this experience 18 days ago, I feel like God gave me a small glimpse into what it might have been like for Tiffany that cold February night in Missouri 14 years ago. I have always been shaken by the thought of how scary that moment must have been for her. And still today, I do think it was scary. That Sunday night was the scariest moment of my life, but it was also the most peaceful. There is something I can’t quite describe about being in the midst of a traumatic experience, in which I feel I have no control, and sensing the nearness of my Savior’s presence and knowing God is in control. My soul finds rest in trusting that in the same way I found peace in the strong arms of my Savior that Sunday night, I believe Tiffany experienced the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding as he carried her home to heaven in the midst of what would certainly be considered a traumatic experience.
I used to say there is no fear in death, but now I really believe it. Christ’s perfect love casts out all fear. Are we afraid? Yes. I don’t think we would be human if we weren’t. But in the midst of our fear, Jesus rushes in to rescue us by giving us the peace of his presence. The peace that is found in Jesus Christ – I can guarantee you – cannot and will not ever be found anywhere else. Do you know his peace? If you were in an accident tonight, would you be trapped in fear? Or would you experience the peace of knowing you are held safe in the arms of Christ?
This week, one of the most beautiful and radiant girls I have ever encountered went home to be with Jesus in an auto accident Monday night. Nancy Jane was just 21, and just like Tiffany, it seems she was taken too soon. I’m still in disbelief this incredible daughter of the Most High King is no longer going to grace us with her smile here on earth, but my soul finds rest in knowing who her soul belonged to. Nancy Jane entrusted her heart to Jesus, and I am confident that in the same way he wrapped me in the peace of his presence, he wrapped Nancy Jane in his strong arms of mighty love Monday night. And ever the more, as he carried her home to heaven. I know God was beaming as he welcomed his daughter home with open arms and total delight.
Nancy Jane, thank you for living your life in such a way that life shined a little brighter with every step you took and with every person you met. The love of Jesus truly overflowed from you. God’s Word says that he created us in his image, and it is easy to see him in you, sweet girl. There is a beautiful blend of kindness, grace, and fun about you that is truly rare and exceptional. You not only impacted hearts while you were here on earth, but you continue to impact hearts as you are home in heaven. Thank you for shining bright, beautiful angel. I pray that because of your life, many girls and guys will place their faith in Jesus Christ: the hope of our souls. See you soon sister, and please give Tiff a hug for me. I have a feeling you two will get along great.
In loving memory of Nancy Jane