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A Near-Death Back-to-Work Experience

March 13, 2012

A few weeks ago my wife and I started up a small group thing at our house – you know, where a few couples from church get together for some bible study, finger foods, and conversation about faith.

Wow – that just sounded scarily churchy-cliche and conventional. But really, it has been refreshing, as this group has become comfortable talking about the questions and doubts and acceptance of the mystery of God’s work in our lives.

During our last meeting, towards the end of the evening after we had all probably shared far too many intimate details than anyone had ever planned to, one gentleman, a recently retired manager from an aerospace company, stunned us with a story of his near-death afterlife experience.

I have read about things like this, but never met anyone who had personally experienced it.

I forget even what prompted his story, other than the collective longing we were expressing for a closer connection to God’s purpose in our everyday lives. The room got quiet as this gentleman began to describe how he was literally pronounced dead one day in a helicopter while being flown to the city hospital. He went on to talk about the sensation of leaving his body, going towards a light, the feeling of indescribable peace and love, recognizing loved ones from the past – “not as bodies, but as streams of light…”, the whole nine yards.

He was not being dramatic or trying to gain attention. This very technical, factual, man was being vulnerable in a way that you get the feeling didn’t happen too often.

Then, he said he was somehow given a choice to return, and he did. Back into the searing pain of his body. He paused, unsure of what to say next, while the rest of us felt chills washing over our limbs as the fire crackled.

You would think this type of intensely spiritual life-after-death experience would have a profound impact – a renewed sense of purpose, gratefulness, a bigger, better perspective on dealing with all the stress and harshness of our lives. And this man was no different – at first.

Once he recovered from his severe illness, he vowed to live differently, not to get caught up in the things that suddenly seemed so trivial, to appreciate life more fully, to be more loving and giving and ever-aware of God’s greater purpose.

“So what was it like when you went back to work?” I asked, thinking about the major attitude adjustment I had coming upon entering my office the next morning.

“Well,” he said, “I was able to hold on to that positive and peaceful point of view for about six months. But then, unfortunately, I got sucked right back into the grind.”

“Oh.”

We didn’t quite know what to say after that. It was a bit disappointing and anti-climactic, to say the least. He knew it. too.

“Look,” he said, trying to explain himself.  “The intensity of the job just forces you back into it. You can’t be a leader and not pay attention to the details of the job you are doing.”

Maybe he is hyper-responsible, or a perfectionist. Maybe his job was just really difficult. Maybe he was getting massive pressure from his boss.

But still, after an after-life experience?

And I was thinking, here’s someone who has actually experienced the bliss of God’s heavenly light, and still he has trouble maintaining perspective at work. If he can’t do it, will it ever be possible to have a responsible job and remain spiritually grounded?

I’d like to give you some tips and pointers right now, but instead, I think we’ll just stew on this for a little while.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2012 5:52 am

    Thanks for choosing to leave this one without commentary for now. The story alone is powerful, and it’s convicting food for thought this morning.

  2. March 13, 2012 6:56 am

    That story drives home the importance of “praying constantly” to me. I still don’t know how to pull that off, but as I read that story, I thought of how hard it is to maintain that connection with God while so many things are going on.

  3. Phil permalink
    March 13, 2012 12:01 pm

    The gentleman will get another chance one day, and it will not be a surprise then. I hope he got the description right; it sounded rather pleasant.

  4. March 13, 2012 1:05 pm

    It’s easy to point fingers in a way, but how often have I encountered God on Sunday and walked right back into the grind on Monday?

  5. March 13, 2012 2:00 pm

    It is amazing that even after that experience he went back to the daily grind..WOW.. A powerful reminder that we need to incorporate our faith into our lives beyond Sunday through regular prayer and other frequent reinforcing reminders of His Grace.

  6. March 13, 2012 2:00 pm

    I’m often skeptical about that kind of story. But honestly, it’s quite different coming from you Bradley, coming through your non fluffy realist writing voice. Thanks to you and your friend for sharing the story.

  7. March 13, 2012 3:41 pm

    the pendulum swings

    looking to God
    life
    after-life experience
    back
    trying to live beyond
    life
    looking to God
    life

  8. March 13, 2012 4:13 pm

    If I had a near-death experience, I think i would be working in a different profession!

  9. March 14, 2012 5:35 am

    Thanks for the stew. I will carry it with me…at least for a while…

  10. March 15, 2012 2:54 pm

    This reminded me of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man who begged Abraham to allow him to return to warn his family to warn them of coming judgment. Abraham said that if they didn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t listen to someone returned from the dead either. I suppose that principle holds for someone who returns from near death. The experience itself is insufficient to change a person, as is trying to keep the law. It’s all God’s transforming work, keeping in step with the Spirit–something that takes a lifetime, not just a once-for-all event.

  11. March 15, 2012 10:50 pm

    I often wonder how I would respond to such an experience. We all have our preconceived notions of we would do or not do, but I am reminded not to judge and to never say never.

    I’d probably just freak out.

  12. March 16, 2012 12:24 pm

    He chose to come back?! That was admirable, loving, and entirely selfless.

  13. March 19, 2012 2:21 am

    Somehow, I am not at all surprised to read this. It is true that we are in the process of being transformed more and more into the image of Jesus – but even the apostle Paul indicated that takes a lifetime! So, choosing to step back into the life we know now most likely means that we are once again put into the position of slow change. It would be really nice to imagine that I might have responded differently – but I’m not at all sure about that. Some things – most especially a deepening appreciation for the people we love – would likely not disappear entirely. But getting drawn back into the routines of life-as-usual – yeah, I get that. Sad to say it, but I get it.

    And David – if what you say is really true – that you would likely change professions after such an experience? Maybe you should consider doing that anyhow! I’ve always thought from reading your words that you kinda like your job and the people you work with. But if you don’t – then make a move. It is never too late. Honest.

    (GRrrr….your site wouldn’t take my comment without going thru twitter. wordpress is being really, really weird these days. :>( And it won’t allow me to sign on for comment notification, either. Sure wish I knew what was going on with them.

  14. Mrrphh permalink
    March 19, 2012 3:41 pm

    Perhaps the return to everydayness in Engineer’s life is really a sanctification of the everyday struggle. After all, the Victory is done. You and I are called to obedience, not to success. The Godward struggle *is* the goal, the end, not a means to an end.

  15. March 22, 2012 6:49 pm

    Hi guy’s a near death experience is a wake up call to purpose and destiny concerning work. Many of us are not experiencing satisfaction and fulfillment in our jobs, because we are in the wrong type of work. I encourage believer’s to work out of their passion, gifting, area of expertise, knowledge and experience in life.There is a specific area of work which we are all called to, if we could only discover it, we would experience fianancial rewards, freedom, better lifestyle, more time with family, purpose and destiny, initimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on a level we never dreamed was possible. So many believers are not finding heavens plan in their job situation, because they never sought Fathers dream job for their lives. Many of us see work from meeting a physical and fianacial need only standpoint. Heaven sees a job or work from fulfilling Fathers purpose perspective.Work is a calling, no different from the pastor behind the pulpit on sunday morning.This separation of the sacred and holy teaching has prevented a lot of believers of grasping and seeing their destiny in the market-place. Beloved be on the look out because heaven is bringing a lot of changes in the market-place, the first 12 disciples of jesus never came from the temple ministry, they all came from the market-place. BLESSINGS ON YOU!

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