One Friday afternoon, a few weeks ago, my friend Peter had a close brush with death.
He did not find Kerry Packer while he was away. But he did find peace and a new determination to follow Jesus.
“You know that bit in the Psalms,” he says, “about walking through the valley of death and not being afraid? Well, it’s true”.
“I was at peace. I knew I was being looked after.” That was during an ambulance trip through peak-hour Sydney traffic. Then to the local hospital and across to the RNS Hospital, followed by a quick operation to unclog his coronary artery.
He’s telling his story to a few of us, in a work meeting room. You know the sort of place. All glass and metal. Today I am a chair sitter. As he describes his drama and the peace he had during it, we think of our colleagues through the glass.
“But if you didn’t have Jesus, how would you cope?” he says.
Peter makes it clear that it wasn’t a blithe confidence that things were going to be all right medically. It’s obvious that at that time he did not know. Instead it was an assurance that things would be well, whatever the outcome. He doesn’t sound relieved that he’s talking to us in the office Bible study group so much as refreshed in his faith. The office hippie has found peace, man.
Thin and lithe looking, Peter does not look like the obvious candidate for a heart attack. Everyone on his floor was, well, floored when it happened. He wants to fix the lifestyle things that made him a target.
“I gave up smoking, cold turkey, that Friday afternoon.”
“I can make myself, am going to make myself, 10 years younger as the doctors suggest. But I want to fix the spiritual things too.”
At this point it sounds like a normal cautionary tale. But then he says, “If it happened again I know I would not be worried.” He means it. The Valley of Death holds no fear for him. He’s been there, and he knows that Jesus was there too.
“I wouldn’t recommend a heart attack to anyone,” says Peter. Then he does. “I’d rather have it than not learn what I have learned.”
At this point I know I am in the most important meeting in all 27 floors. Whatever corporate shenanigans are being done in this corner of the CBD, this little band of Christians are the ones who know how to die, and therefore how to live.