“It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the Judgement…” Hebrews 9:27
Humans are born with an expiration date. Everyone has a day when their time is up. In the movie, “Little Big Man” Dustin Hoffman demonstrates his bravery in battle by saying, “It is a good day to die.” Our day will come. We have no control over this if we embrace life naturally. Even if someone tries to commit suicide, sometimes they don’t die. It wasn’t their day to die, their time had not expired.
Once, when I was in college, I thought my time had expired. I was working a lousy job in downtown Minneapolis where I worked back to back shifts- closing one night and opening the next morning- with 4 hours of sleep in between shifts. I was living in St. Paul, just over the river from Minneapolis. My commute consisted of throwing my bike in the trunk of my car and driving to the college parking lot on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. From there I would bike a mile to work. The commute in reverse would be repeated after my 8 hour shift.
One night, I was leaving work around 11:30 PM. I was riding my bike on the sidewalk because at this time there were no bike lanes on the street. The light in front of me turned green just as my front tire left the curb. Rolling smoothly through the crosswalk, I was aware of a city bus on my left that was just entering the intersection.
Suddenly I realized that the city bus was turning right… and life switched to slow motion. Surely he will look to see if anyone is in the crosswalk. Surely he will stop when he sees I’m here. The bus kept coming. He’s going to hit me… I’m going to die.
The things that flash through your mind at the moment when you face your own mortality reveal the true contents of your soul. Emptied on the pavement, moments swirl slowly like oil in water, and you have the leisure to admire the irridescent rainbow that will be all that’s left of your life on Earth’s road. In one moment I thought an entire soliloquy. I’m going to die. This is really going to hurt. But just for a moment and then I’ll see Jesus. I haven’t done anything that I wanted to do yet. I haven’t graduated from college. I haven’t gotten married and had children. I wanted to do so much, and now so many dreams will be left undone. But I’m going to see Jesus. I’m going to die. I’ve always wondered how I will die. I’m going to see Jesus.
I remember the thud of my shoulder hitting the side of the bus and the yank of my bike wheels catching under the rim of the bus wall. The wheels crumpled under the bus and I flew sideways to the right. Skidding across the pavement on my elbows and knees, leaving fabric and skin and blood on the road, I sensed that the bus driver didn’t even know that he hit me. I’m not dead yet. Get to the curb, get to the curb. I scrambled with all my might to reach the sidewalk and I rolled up onto it just as the back wheel of the bus scrapped the yellow paint off the curb. At eye level, I saw my mangled bike under the bus striking up sparks as it drug helplessly along. That could have been me. But it wasn’t.
It wasn’t my time. My expiration date had not arrived yet. After it was all over I went back to the oil slick of my thoughts on the road and examined again what had spilled out of my heart. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Above all else, I value Jesus. I live for the day when I will see him face to face. Everyday I believe, “it is a good day to die,” but if I don’t die, then it is a good day to live as well. To live is Christ and to die is gain.