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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
He who fights too long against dragons
becomes a dragon himself; and if you gaze too long
into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.
Stable enough to travel, I was loaded into the back of a waiting ambulance for the grueling 170-mile trip to a larger hospital in Nashville. I was in critical condition, teetering on a tightrope between life and death. The paramedic kept a close eye on me, alternating between administering IVs and watching my vital signs. Things were going fine, and then unexpectedly, my heart stopped.
I knew instantly I was dead. Yet, rather than feeling fear or panic, I felt an incredible sense of peaceI can hardly put into words how good it felt. One moment I was bleeding on my bedroom floor, my entire body throbbing from the damage I had done to my face, and in an instant the pain was gone and I had been transported to another dimension. I was surprised that I could see my legs; I guess I thought a spirit wouldn't have a body at all. My body was weightless and buoyant; it was like I was ten years old again, but this time I could jump as high as the ceiling. I felt terrific! This had to be heaven.
Out of the inky darkness a woman appeared, flanked by several people on either side of her. She was stunningly beautiful with long, dark, wavy hair, high cheekbones, and a narrow face. She looked very much like a Native American, the type of woman I had always been attracted to. My eyes locked onto her, and I couldn't break my gaze.
'How do you feel?' she asked, smiling broadly.
I felt completely at ease.
'I feel great!' I replied.
I couldn't remember feeling that good in a long time.
No sooner had the words come out than the woman's previously beautiful features contorted, turning dark and sinister. Her lovely face morphed into something revolting and frightening. Her eyes were squinty and penetrating, and she curled her lips and showed her teeth like a snarling animal. Then she hunched over like a beast and growled.
The woman wasn't the only one who had transformed into a demon; the entire group snapped at me like they wanted to rip me apart. I've never been afraid of much on this earth, but that placeespecially that womanfrightened me so much I thought I was going to explode from the inside, like I had a bomb of fear in me. They were so close I could have reached out and touched them, and the closer they got, the more panicked I became. I was gripped by an absolutely indescribable terror.
It wasn't just fear I felt at that moment; it was a profound sense of loneliness. I knew I was separated from God, and I can't begin to explain how desperate I felt. I knew I wasn't in heaven after all; this was most assuredly hell. I don't mean the religious view of a fire-and-brimstone hell; it was more like the outer gates of an inescapable prison. I believe demons come in many different forms, and in my case, Satan's underling came as a beautiful woman, because that was my biggest weakness.
As the woman inched closer I became so frightened I could no longer bear to look at her, and cast my gaze straight up. Having been so focused on the beautiful woman, I hadn't realized how dark it was all around me. It wasn't pitch-black like the dark of night; it was more like a thick, solid black cloud I could literally cut through, a dark abyss. There was a dark, smoky glare around me, like I was onstage in a blackened theater with only a spotlight to illuminate the darkness. I looked up into the inky blackness and screamed with everything I had, 'Please, God, help me!' That's when I heard them, the sound of a million souls screaming at the top of their lungs in agony and panic. Their torment was terrifying and sent icy shivers up my spine.
In the blink of an eye I found myself in a completely different place. Everything was bathed in a warm, bright light. I was no longer in the presence of demons, but gazing up at a man who looked like an old patriarch of the Bible. He had solid white hair and a snowy beard, and his mustache was so thick I couldn't see his top lip. His skin was like bronze, reminding me of the Apostle John's vision of the risen Christ in Revelation 1:15, NKJV: 'His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.'
The man's most remarkable features were his eyes. They were so piercing I couldn't look away. They were a beautiful warm brown, almost hazel, and he had wrinkles around both of them, like a weathered farmer. I didn't get the sense he was old, though; his were the kind of deep lines one gets from smiling. Still terrified by what I'd just experienced, I stood before the man shaking like a little kid anticipating his punishment. Then he grinned and all the fear left me, replaced by a tremendous sense of calm. I knew then that I was in heaven and was full of gratitude that God had lifted me out of that horrible place.
The next thing I remember is waking up three days later in a hospital bed. I don't know how long I had flatlined in the back of that ambulanceit could've been thirty seconds or it could've been for a minute or two. In eternity there is no sense of time. The experience reminded me of the movie Contact, in which actress Jodie Foster climbed into a time machine and went to heaven. When she returned to Earth, she felt like she had spent a week there, when actually she was only in the machine for a few seconds.
My near-death experience proved to me that God is real and so is His enemy. I can't stand the thought of knowing there will be human beings who will spend eternity where I went. I don't want anybody to go to that dark abyss, not even my worst enemy. I've tried my best, but there's no way I can describe how terrifying hell wasI've never felt those emotions before, and I hope I never do again. Please, God, don't let me go back to that place.
I'm always hesitant to share this part of my story, because people can be skeptical of things they don't understand. When I first started speaking, I shared my experience everywhere I went, but I got such weird responses in churches that I quit. Frankly, I was embarrassed. Those who did believe me thought I had probably met Moses or another prophet, but I know in my heart that I met Jesus Christ that day.
I've even had preachers tell me I was just hallucinating, that I wasn't really in heaven or hell; that it was merely a chemical reaction in my brain when I died. One particular preacher, who is both a police officer and a minister, said he didn't believe me. He operated on facts and evidence, and I had no proof. Believe me, life after death is real.
You can call it whatever you want to, but my family and I know I haven't been the same since I was put into the back of that ambulance. I am a new man.