Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hope in a Heartbeat

Dear Friends,

It was 6 am on a still-dark winter morning. I’m in my backyard, cup of coffee in hand, praying as I start my day. I pay no attention to the bus at the stop across the street, but suddenly the driver activates the emergency alarm that flashes the bus lights and dispatches the police to its location. The driver is  standing at the front of the bus and staring at the back. At first it looks like the bus is empty. Then I see him. Sitting in the back. All I can see is the back of his head from the shoulders up and he’s wearing a black hoodie. The bus driver is staring at this guy and I’m thinking maybe the driver pushed the alarm because it’s the last stop and the guy is refusing to get off the bus or something. A couple of minutes later, a Sheriff’s patrol car comes rushing up. 

The bus driver and the young deputy walk back to the passenger. The deputy leans down to look at the guy. He gently shakes the guy by the shoulder. The deputy now has a funny look on his face as he turns and speaks to the bus driver. They both scurry to the front of the bus. Then I realize that as long as I’ve been watching the guy sitting with his back to me that his head is at a funny angle. It hasn’t moved at all. 

The deputy is talking into his radio and the driver has run outside the bus and I suddenly realize that the guy must be dead. The young deputy is agitated and glancing nervously in the direction of the corpse and it looks like the bus driver is having a panic attack. About fifteen minutes later, the paramedics and a fire engine arrive at a leisurely speed with no siren. The fire station is just over a mile from here but apparently there’s no hurry to get out of bed in the morning when the police report a dead body. 

Five firefighters get on the bus. Some are in their regulation turnout gear but the Captain is wearing the blue tee shirt that he was sleeping in. His hair is sticking up and he looks like he wishes he were back in bed. The Captain glances at the corpse, yawns and leans back against one of the seats. There’s no sense of urgency as a paramedic takes out a stethoscope and bends down over the body. A minute goes by. He’s taking a long time to find a heartbeat, and I’m thinking that they are being thorough before officially declaring that this poor guy is deceased. I pray for his soul. The lights in the bus are on at full brightness and from my backyard, less than 100 feet away, I’m watching this real-life drama through the bus windows as if it were a tragic reality show.

The paramedic says something to the sleepy Captain and I watch the expression on his face change to one of disgust. Suddenly, the Captain yanks the hoodie off the dead guy’s head! He grabs the shoulders and starts violently shaking the body! I’m watching the head of the corpse just whip back and forth! The startled bus driver jumps up in the air, clamps a hand over his mouth as if to stifle a scream and holds on to one of the seats as he starts to sway. It looks like the driver is going to faint as the “corpse” now struggles to his feet. Then with a firefighter on each side, the “dead” guy is walked off the bus.

Later that morning, I realized how what I had just witnessed was so applicable to our Christian relationships with others. How many people have you and I given up on? How many have we determined are spiritually dead and there’s just no hope for them? Even our Christian friends agree and rush to join us in the administration of the “last rites!” Yeah. He’s dead. He gave up on God after his wife left him and he was hurt by the church... Yeah. She’s dead. After her daughter was in that accident, she’s been mad at God ever since... Yep. No hope for him. He’s an atheist and he’s been spiritually dead all of his life. Nothing to do here. It’s too late. He’s gone. No need to resuscitate. He’s beyond salvation...

Who have you given up on? Who is beyond all help? Who is beyond all hope? Maybe your heart still breaks over this person and maybe you’ve given up because it’s just too painful to think about them. But if you’ve given up on them, you’ve given up too quickly. Yes I know that for some of you, it’s been a long time. It’s been many, many years with your witnessing to them, your prayers, your tears, your own frustration at their hard heart and closed ears. 

From all outward appearances, even to the professional first-responders, the guy was dead. Everyone who looked at the guy on the bus had come to the same conclusion and they were all wrong. And we need to remember that no matter how spiritually dead our friends and loved ones look to us, there is hope because a heart still beats and God has not given up on him or her. As long as they’re alive, there is hope for them through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Believe with me that God is not done with your friends and loved ones. Let’s persevere in prayer for them because as long as there’s a heartbeat, there is hope!  Amen?

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