Let go my Soul, and Trust in Him
I’m about to be as vulnerable as I can possibly be in this moment and I hope that it will result in life giving hope for others dealing with things they feel like they cannot overcome.
You might be asking yourself, why do I feel this is necessary? The truth is, I’m just tired of death and sickness ripping families apart and having nothing better to say than “I’m praying for you”. What if I could tell you that I had an interaction with God in a near death experience and that it provided me with vision to see past this temporary life? What if I could tell you that it was so beautifully peaceful that it made me somewhat numb to things that have happened in my life since? Well, I can and I will. Until right now in this moment, I was embarrassed to share this story for fear of what people will think of me. I never wanted to identify as the weirdo who claims to have met God… and honestly I’m not even sure what in the world happened, but maybe writing this will help me bring clarity. Maybe I’ll never understand “what in the world” happened because what happened wasn’t “in this world.” I’ve heard of countless books and movies where people have had near death experiences and I was always skeptical thinking maybe they just were trying to make a profit selling empty hope to hurting people. All this to say, take or leave what I’m about to say, but I have nothing to gain from this other than feeling good that I’m doing what I think I’m supposed to do by sharing what God did for me… So, here it is.
I’m fully convinced that I met God in a near death experience and it changed my perception of life, death, and the faith I have to fill in the gap between the two. If you’ve already said to yourself, “oh man, Vinnie has lost it…” I’m okay with that. But, do me the favor of reading this and at least know the extent of my craziness before you go on your way.
In order to tell this story properly, I need you to know a little bit of a backstory on a moment that consumed me and I never understood until recently. If you know me personally or read this blog faithfully, I’ve spoke before about my fathers battle with cancer a few years ago. Sometimes, I think losing him is the baseline that helps center my emotions and beliefs, so I apologize for returning to this topic again, but being present in that fight for the duration taught me so many things that I wasn’t ready to learn. I believe it is my responsibility to share these lessons with the world to help people put the pieces together in similar losses that they may endure… As Pastor Theo Schaffer said in his Tedx Talk this past year in Charlotte, “Awareness is the confirmation of responsibility. In other words, the moment you become aware, is the moment you immediately become responsible.”
The moment that I’m speaking about that consumed me and I didn’t understand at all until recently, happened the moment my father passed. This awful minute in my life that I would NEVER want to live in or return to forced me to do something I could not ever imagine finding strength to do on my own. Surrounded by family and friends in the living room of the house I was raised in, my father took his last breath. I didn’t know whether to cry, to fall over, to stay, to go, to scream… I felt totally clueless as to what my next step would be. As a 24 year old who was new to being a follower of Jesus, let me tell you there is no scripture or word of encouragement someone could tell me in that moment to give me peace of mind. I remember looking around the room in a panicked sense of shock and seeing everyone with similar looks. (Again, I’m very sorry for the ugly picture I’m painting, but I want you to know that this entry is for those currently living in the darkest depths of hell so they know that I am speaking from being RIGHT THERE where they are and not from some higher ground hypothetically saying “Everything happens for a reason”.) It was in this moment of utter chaos that my perspective supernaturally shifted. I started thinking this question… “God, if my fathers spirit is not with him anymore, where is it and what does he see now? Is he able to see everyone around him in this room? Does he see a different dimension completely removed from this reality? WHERE IS HE?” I didn’t get an answer from asking these questions, but what I did get was a way to respond to the situation. I started thinking, “If his spirit can see the people he is leaving, what would I want to see if I was him?” Immediately I grabbed my mother and my sisters hand and asked everyone to join us. I somehow found composure and began to pray out loud thanking God for the life He gave and asking Him to allow my Father to find rest in Him. I didn’t do this out of trying to pretend to have it all together and not be effected by what just happened, but I truly felt like that moment was not about me. I would have time to mourn and cry later, but in that moment all I could think about was my fathers soul leaving this earth and instead of seeing people broken around him, I thought about what he would want to see. I thought he would want to see that he is leaving a family who will hold each other up and will find faith to believe they will see him again. I believed he deserved to see unity in his wife and children knowing we would go and honor his life through thanking God for it. I imagined him seeing God face to face after this moment with a full heart and God being like, “Wow you did a pretty amazing job with that family of yours.” I mean after all, is there a better way to meet God for the first time then having a group of people backing that moment with praises for the life that God gave them rather than questions like why did He take from them?
Now that you know some back-story, here is where my out of this world encounter confirmed my belief in God and assured me that how we respond to death matters. Fast forward to summer of 2017. It was a beautiful night and I was hanging with a few friends and my wife in our relatively new home of Charlotte, NC. I’ll spare you a few details of this story, but this was the night I had a near death experience. I remember just relaxing and out of nowhere feeling very nauseous and hot like I had a fever. I didn’t want to make a scene because everyone was just hanging out around the kitchen counter having a good time so I stepped outside to catch some fresh air. After being there for a few minutes, I remember my vision becoming blurred and feeling extremely cold. I began to shiver and felt like I was losing consciousness. At this moment, my wife came outside to check on me and when she came out I was sitting on the bottom of the stairs gasping for air and not responding to her. I remember feeling like I was fighting to take every breath and it was all I had to not totally black out. A normal night turned into a weird reality in a matter of moments and I still can’t explain it to this day.
I actually could hear my wife’s panicked voice saying “Did anyone see what happened to him? His lips are blue… what is going on?" But I could not find the strength to respond. This was the moment that things turned really unexplainable… I will try to capture it for you, but it was just not like anything you can explain in this world we know. I felt like I was rising out of my body and I was actually looking at the situation from the second story of the house we were at even though I was on the bottom of the stairs in the back yard. I could see everyone around me trying to get my attention, but my focus was no longer on them. It was locked in on the brightest light I could ever see. I knew what was going on below me, but I started communicating without using words with this presence that brought unbelievable peace. I am fully convinced it was the presence of Gods spirit and I remember saying, “God I know this is you, but what is happening? Am I dying and if so, how?” I remember him not responding, but I somehow knew he was trying to get my attention through this. “I said, God you have my attention, I will spend my life spreading your peace if that is what you want, just please let me have the chance to do it.” My consiousness began to refocus on the people around me who were severely concerned for my well-being now. I then knew I was not dying and when that was obvious I slowly began to come back to reality in my body. I regained control of my breathing and my body and went back inside the house. I was terrified, not because of the experience itself, but because now I knew my life was not about the reality I knew. I became aware and so I immediately became responsible to figure out meaning and why God allowed me to experience what I did.
The most challenging part of my life is that after experiencing an all time low in the death of a loved one and then the all time high moment in encountering the creator of the universe, what do you do with the in-between day-to-day life I am currently in? Well, I don’t know… So here I am. I try to live in the spirit that God provides for me on a daily basis. I try to move and keep in step with the spirit as much as possible. Do I always succeed? NO, just ask my wife and those who see me more than two hours a week…
The take away from this is simple… I do know without a shadow of a doubt that God is real and He is loving and embracing and forgiving and merciful and he listens… The lesson is not so simple, because the lesson is ongoing. The lesson is that He is my guide. He is my life. He is everything. I’m not “brainwashed” into being a follower of Jesus. I’m simply convinced that His message and movement is the true way to spread God’s love and I intend to do it through every chance I get until I’m called home someday.
Here is the most important thing I want you to hear me say if you hear anything from this. Here is the huge lesson I learned in this moment.
God used my questions in an all time low moment of death and sorrow to show me an answer years later in an unexplainable, high moment of promise and hope. You see, my question in that moment of death was “God, what does my father see now that he is gone?” His response in that moment without saying anything was nudging me to look at the situation from what my father would want to see. Then, he confirmed that it was Him in that moment by showing me via our encounter. When I was asking God if I was dying, I could still see the people I loved below me. Do you see what He did? He put me in the position my father was in when I asked that question. And holding on to this gives me GREAT PEACE knowing that as my father was leaving this earth, he looked down and saw his family thanking the creator of the universe for the life he lived. God provided peace for me to remember the darkest day of my life through an experience, not through words.
People always ask me, how can you believe God is good if he allows death to take place? My response is that I don’t know exactly… I just know He is because He showed me. I would encourage you to ask God that question… not me. Ask Him from a place of seriously wanting to know Him, not from a place of doubting His goodness. Instead of asking WHY something happened, ask Him how to move forward and for Him to show you peace in what happened. He might not answer you the same way he answered me and He might not answer you until the day you come face to face with Him, but I know one thing is for sure. You’ll never get a response of any kind if you don’t make room and invite Him to give it.
Below is a painting I did the week after this experience as I tried to capture what I remember seeing.