On May 1st, 2021, at 1:30 AM I felt a deep pain in my stomach. 24 hours later I saw a doctor because the pain wouldn’t go away. The Doctor after examining me detected a serious infection caused by a ruptured appendix. Loss of life was out of the question and I was taken to surgery immediately! The surgeon later said my condition was so critical, that the VP canceled vacation and returned to the hospital. It was a close encounter with death but I lived to tell the tale. It was my second chance at life.
Speaking of second chances, we all like them but only a handful of us make it count. The dictionary defines a second chance as “an opportunity to try something again after failing one time” – It’s crucial that you make your opportunity count for two reasons. In life, there’s no such thing as a third chance. Then how you utilize your second chance defines your future. Today I want to share with you three principles I used to make my second chance count so that you will be able to make yours count.
Realizing that I’m not here for a long time but a good Time
The way we respond to a crisis situation depends on our personality traits. Some fight back and don’t give up while others fight only until they cannot fight anymore. Then they shut down, pack up, and move into survival mode. I belong to the second category. When my marriage collapsed, I kept on fighting until life knocked me out. Then I shut down, packed up, and went into survival mode. At work, I put my head down and worked. At home, I binge-watched Netflix. When I wasn’t, I slept. 24 hours in a stretch sometimes! I stopped being the productive person I once was.
Then I got sick and needed surgery after which I was in recovery for over a month. Although this was a time of pain and suffering it was also an opportunity for reflection. It was on one such day a quote by Bob Parsons (Founder & CEO, GoDaddy Inc.) crossed my mind. “We are not here for a long time. We are here for a good time.” At that moment I realized life is too short and that I shouldn’t melt it down in a crucible of unproductivity. I realized my life can be productive again if I quit the survival mode and enter the thriving mode.
That day I decided to take a hold of myself once again and I did. Feeling sorry and feeling guilty won’t bring my wife back. On the other hand, if she decides to come back, she should find a better version of me when she returns. Not a broken man. Even if she never comes back, I still have a loving family that loves me and needs me around for many years to come. Today, I am not a survivor anymore. I am not a victim either. I am a man of productivity driven by a purpose. After all, I am not here for a long time but for a good time!
Accepting that everybody makes mistakes and everybody has those Days
Dedrick D. L. Pitter said, “I will forever believe in second chances and forgiveness because if it weren’t for those two things I would and should be dead.” Speaking of forgiveness the holy bible has very interesting teaching about forgiveness. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18 verses 21-22 St. Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” and Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
In Jesus’ time, the accepted norm for forgiveness was to forgive up to three offenses. Therefore, Peter thought forgiving seven times was a generous offer. When Jesus said seventy times seven, he meant one must forgive an unlimited number of second chances. Our ego, (especially that of men) prevents us from forgiving all the while we want to be forgiven every time we mess up. Our ego keeps us from forgiving unconditionally all the while we want to be forgiven unconditionally.
While in reflection I remembered how forgiving my father was. Years ago, one of his friends got offended because he refused to sign as a guarantor for a bank loan. My father however few years before he died went to this man, apologized (although my father wasn’t wrong), and reconciled. They remained friends until my father died. I used to be an unforgiving person. It was after surviving my close encounter with death, that I decided to change. All of us including me need forgiveness after all. This is why Miley Cyrus sang, “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days”
Discerning the Stairway to Heaven from the Highway to Hell
I am a huge fan of hard rock and I often find myself listening to Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. One day, post-surgery, while in recovery I was reflecting on my close encounter with death, and it was then I realized I wasn’t ready to die. When I looked at the rear-view mirror of my life, I couldn’t say whether I would have been on the highway to hell or on the stairway to heaven had I died. It was a rude eye-opener because despite the fact I believe there’s a heaven and there a hell I didn’t know where I belonged.
Two thousand years before Led Zeppelin sang the path to heaven is up a stairway or AC/DC sang the path to hell is through a highway, Jesus warned his disciples saying “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” Unfortunately, I have been entering through the wider gate for most of my life because entering by the narrow gate is like climbing a staircase while entering through the wider gate is as easy as driving through the highway.
I want to dedicate another paragraph to this point because I believe it’s the most important lesson, I learned the day I almost died. On July 18th, 2021, three months after my close encounter with death I recommitted my life to Christ. Most people including myself think about heaven and hell only when they have had a brush with death or while gasping for life on the death bed. However, preparation for the afterlife is a lifelong journey that we start by surrendering our life to Christ.
It’s been one year and two months since my close encounter with death. Now I live by the three principles I learned (the hard way) and mentioned before. When overwhelmed with fear, worry, and anxiety, I nudge and tell myself that I am not here for a long time but for a good time. That gives me the ability to focus amid a crisis. I practice forgiveness and it has enhanced the quality of my relationships significantly. I no longer live with an earthly perspective but a heavenly perspective and it’s adding so much value to my life every day.
If I can do it, you can do it too. Your life is very short that you cannot melt it away in a crucible of regret, fear, worry, and anxiety. Rather get a hold of yourself. Don’t harbor unforgiveness because unforgiveness is like hurting yourself expecting it will hurt your offender. Stop being a fool! Don’t live life as if you are immortal because the time to prepare for eternity is while you are still alive. If you make these three principles a priority in your life you will be leaving behind a legacy that will make you alive in the hearts and minds of people even after you are long gone.
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