To Live or To Die?

Notre Dame Cathedral from hotel

Jill in Paris hospital

She saw herself floating out the window. On her back, feet forward, she was leaving this world. She had to make a decision, and fast. Was she going to choose to live or to die?

Jill and I had just returned from nearly three weeks in Africa. The view from our Paris hotel room was stunning. Three days to recuperate alongside the Seine River across the street from Notre Dame Cathedral sounded perfect. However, awakened by sharp chest pains around 12:30 a.m., our dream suddenly disfigured into a terrifying nightmare. With her life in the balance, she heard herself say, “NO! I have a husband. I have two sons!”

We didn’t know it at the time, but Jill was experiencing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, stemming from a deep vein thrombosis in one of her legs. A blood clot, formed during the long overnight flight from Nairobi, Kenya, broke loose, and traveled up her veins. After passing through her heart, it entered her lungs in one or more pieces, choking off oxygen to vital regions.

From a medical point of view, five days in the hospital and a steady dose of blood thinners saved her life. However, her decision to come back through the window for the sake of her sons and me may have been even more instrumental to her survival.

Few truly want to die, but choosing to live for the sake of others under such circumstances is not a given. The crisis revealed the depth of her love for her family, and her decision showed the extent of her devotion.

In prison, the Apostle Paul similarly found himself in a struggle between living and dying. We don’t know if he was at risk of being executed or simply felt he had an option to surrender his life to his suffering. Whatever the case, under his circumstances, death had become increasingly attractive.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul described his ambivalence about living and explained his rationale for the choice he finally made:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. (Philippians 1:21-26, NIV)

Paul did not choose life because he was afraid to die. His relationship with Jesus Christ and his faith actually made the next life very appealing. However, he said no to death, because he had a stronger reason to live.

Most of us are not aware of making a decision about life or death, or even feel that we have any say in the matter. But the truth is, every day we are deciding, and we do have a say.

I’m not talking just about our power to affect our physical wellbeing. I’m referring to coming to grips with our raison d’être—our reason to wake up in the morning. I, for one, have no interest in simply trudging through life, just keeping busy or passively yielding to the demands and expectations of the status quo. I refuse to go through the motions of looking alive, when I am actually dying on the inside. I want to live, and want to do so with the meaning, purpose, and passion that grow out of God’s unique calling on my life.

We have choices. We can allow ourselves to be controlled by misguided values and empty pursuits, or we can look at our lives as a series of opportunities to make a difference. How we find the life we were meant to live will be different for each one of us, but only by making a concerted effort to discover and to pursue our callings will we truly live.

Near death experiences like Jill’s slap us in the face. We suddenly grasp that we cannot take our life for granted. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, after his encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Future, we may gratefully gulp down the air whose consumption proves that we still are alive. In our moment of second chances, we may eagerly search about for whatever changes we can quickly make while we still can.

You may not see yourself going out a window feet first, having to choose between life and death, but you do have life or death choices to make. What are they going to be?

A Prayer

“Dear Lord God, I want to live. I mean truly live. Please show me where I have settled for lesser gods or simply meaningless preoccupations, and set me free. Lead me in the path of life, and give me the wisdom, courage, and strength to take the next steps available to me…for Christ’s sake, for mine, and for all those you want to bless through me. Amen.”

13 Comments

Filed under What Will Make a Difference?

13 responses to “To Live or To Die?

  1. Dan Bowles

    Tim and Jill, thank you for your witness. It touched me deeply.

    May God continue to heal Jill, bless your marriage and your family, and lead and use you according to His will. Dan

  2. Whew…too scary on a human level. Jill and your family is in our prayers.

    I admire this passion:

    “I refuse to go through the motions of looking alive, when I am actually dying on the inside. I want to live, and want to do so with the meaning, purpose, and passion that grow out of God’s unique calling on my life.”

    While you’re talking to medical professionals do you think they develop a pill we can distribute for the hopeless so they’ll — “refuse to go through the motions of looking alive, when I am actually dying on the inside”?

  3. Martha

    Beautiful! And I am going to print the prayer and post it on my refrigerator with my other favorite prayer. Blessing to you and Jill.

  4. Tim Linton

    Thank you, Tim. The timing of your message this morning is perfect. Having spent most of yesterday in the ER for an ongoing chronic issue, needless to say I was discouraged. But your message is just want I needed to read this mornng. To prayerfully choose each morning (raison d’etre) to “live” for Christ so that God will continue to use me for His purpose.

    I continue to pray for you and Jill during this transition in your lives.

  5. Dear Tim,
    I am so glad I read your post…I knew Jill was very ill but I had no idea it was a life or death experience…
    I am sooo glad things have turned out so well and I weill continue to pray for her recovery..
    On a much different scale I am now recovering from polymyalgia rheumatica. Anauto immune muscle disease…lots of pain and no energy. I am now on prednisone and feel terrific….they are already reducing the dosage and I can now continue to live my life.
    My love and all the beret to you both……Marnie~

  6. Brad Holt

    Tim and Jill,

    Thank you for this update and description of Paris events. Jill, thank you for deciding to stay among us, not only for your family, but for the rest of us who appreciate your ministry. May God give healing and strength to you both!

  7. Tim and Jill,

    Thank you for allowing us to participate in your life experience’s through this blog. You are touching many for Christ in good times and bad.

    Blessings,

    Alan

  8. Pam Kearney

    May the blessings of all our choices be as meaningful, as profound and as courageous as Jill’s recent ones…May you both continue to receive the Love that surrounds you and slowly may the healing begin. Your words and your sermon in testimony to Jill and the power of her intention moved and inspired me to the core of my being. Thank you~
    Peace,
    Pam

  9. sakindi Theoneste

    bonjour papa et maman.

    j’ai l’espoir que maman doit vivre longtemps.
    c’est Dieu qui donne la vie moi je n’est pas peur
    dans la bible il ya beaucoup de verses qui montre comment Dieu ajoute les temps a celui qui obeisse ,travail pour Dieu.
    par example en
    2 Rois, chapitre 20. verse 1-7
    montre comment Dieu a ajoute les annees a Hezechias .
    meme si ezechias etait malade Dieu a lui fait geurir parceque ezechias il travail pour Dieu.
    alors Dieu sais tres bien ma maman il sais son travail il va lui guerir, jesus ne peut pas nous faire pleure encore.

    votre enfant Theoneste sakindi au Rwanda

  10. Wow, what an inspirational story! Thank you for sharing it and for your partnership in reaching the Vietnamese for Christ!

  11. The prayer Tim wrote above resonated very deeply with me, as I contemplate (and face the fears around) moving into a new phase of my life, no longer working for someone else. It may sound obvious (“of course, retire from your 30 year gov’t career!”) but feelings do show up. And reflection of them offer an opportunity to breathe, let go and move more fully into how I believe God wants me to spend my time during this next period of my life on earth (!)

    Jill, I pray that your spirit, your breath (even the gentle small movements of it streaming in and out) and your deep connection within and with God continue to fill (and re-fill) your body with light and strength and joy. Blessings always, G/Joan.

  12. jcasey@dcwis.com

    Too often these unexpected and frighteningly sudden events in our lives leave no lessons, because we have no sense of looking for them! Jill and Tim do know how to look, and last time I “saw” her she was looking very fit and dusting an angel at Chartres! Definitely, her time has not come!

  13. agnes ibanda

    i’m glad to read this story after Jill has come out of danger
    God is faithfull and always gives his servants what they ask for. God bless you again as you serve him in France.
    Agnes

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