I almost died on a date with Brandon the other night.
We were eating at Olive Garden. I was talking and eating and laughing and laugh-eating and talk-chewing and eat-talking and snort-swallowing, as you do when you spend a lot of time with tiny people, but now you’re in a quiet restaurant with your favorite grown-up person and you’re too excited to remember to breathe and chew and talk and laugh at separate times, instead of all at the same time.😐
Things were great. I had my favorite person, my favorite salad and my favorite soup. Until suddenly my favorite salad tried to take my life by sneaking a crouton into my larynx in the middle of a standard snort-swallow. I felt it immediately and die-coughed for about an hour straight. “Die-coughed” isn’t the scientific term, but I think it’s the most succinct way to explain the panicked hacking/gagging/flailing I was doing as I tried to decide if my husband would have to tell my kids that a crouton killed their mom.
It was a strange few minutes. I could sort of breathe, but I couldn’t cough out the crouton. Every time I’d try to force it out, my throat would make a weird wheezing sound. You could hear that something was stuck in my windpipe that shouldn’t have been.
So, I called the doctor who told me to call urgent care who heard my weird throat sound over the phone and said “GO TO THE ER.”
So, there I was, feeling silly in the ER, writing my name on the check-in paper and opening my mouth to say, “I know I look fine and I’m mostly breathing, but I inhaled a crouton.”
And the nurse beside the guy at the desk said “She does not sound good,” and pushed buttons and whispered into a phone and they immediately pulled me back in for chest and throat x-rays and breathing treatments before I even had a chance to sit in the waiting room.
This was about two weeks ago, so I think it’s safe to say it didn’t end me. But, it was a weird little life moment, when I thought I might die in an Olive Garden. And, it caused me to ask the question, “What if I actually die because of a crouton right now?”
I was so happy, and a little surprised by the answer. I realized that, though I would always be remembered for dying in front of unlimited soup and salad, my soul really does believe that to live is Christ and to die, even by way of crouton, is far better.
That hasn’t always been true. When I was younger, I was over-churched and under-gospeled and so afraid all the time. Afraid of death, afraid of failure, afraid of what comes after. I knew I was supposed to believe that death was an upgrade for a believer. But, I never felt good enough to die and meet Jesus.
“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21
I would read that and think, I want to feel that, but to live is better, because death means judgement. Dying means scary things. To die could mean standing before Jesus and hearing Him say, “Depart. You were never a good enough Christian…”
It’s hard to believe that I read the Bible and went to Bible school and heard the actual words of the gospel so many times in songs and sermons and books, but it hadn’t sunk in.
I didn’t know how to make it sink in.
I thought it was something I could will it to do.
But God did it.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6
Now, I’m on the other side, the side that knows that if I die tomorrow, it really will be the best day ever.
I love my life. But, God has shone into my heart the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and it is real. And it is better.
Jesus has already seen me through tragedies, and miscarriages, and non-humorous, non-crouton related near death experiences, and victories, and dreams coming true. And through every part of this life, He shows me again and again that I am His and I am loved because of His good works, not my filthy rags.
I used to think I needed God’s grace to juuuust make it into heaven, by the skin of my teeth.
Now I see that I need God’s grace yesterday, today and tomorrow and now…and still now. But I also see that I have it. The gospel tells me that nothing I do will change my status as His forgiven, delighted-in daughter. Living in light of this reality allows me to look at an almost lethal crouton or a parenting fail or a cancer scare with a Mona Lisa smile.
I’m glad that crouton didn’t kill me the other night.
But, I’m more glad that with every crouton and every win and every loss, the Holy Spirit assures me more and more and deeper still, that to live is Christ and to die is far better.