Chapter 4: Near Death Experience
It didn’t really bother me for long that the guy at work didn’t call, because some good news had just broken open in another area of my life. After some hard work and filling out many applications, I had just learned that I was accepted into the Americorps program. This was the American version of the Peace Corps, and it was a huge honor to be selected. It was a competitive program, and not easy to get into at all. Getting accepted felt like a confirmation that I was really ‘somebody’ after all. I needed this boost in self-esteem after the breakup with James. I wanted to prove to him that I could accomplish amazing things on my own. Finally I would be living the adventures that James and I had dreamed about. I wondered if he would be impressed with me if he knew. I saw myself through his eyes sometimes, imagining that he was cheering me on through my accomplishments. The truth was, I didn’t have a good relationship with my real father, and on top of that I had just lost my stepfather in the family divorce,…so James was the central male figure in my life at that time, and his approval was still important to me.
I soon discovered that the Americorps job would be working for Habitat for Humanity in Arizona. This was a huge honor for me, and it meant my life was going to make a difference. People in my social circle were really impressed with this accomplishment, and told me I was really going to do something with my life. So without much deliberation, I packed up my car, grabbed my beloved cat, and drove out west. I was full of hope and vision for my future, and I felt like my life finally made sense for the first time in a long time. I was ready for adulthood to begin. Arizona, here I come!
When I first arrived in Arizona, I was ecstatic. My employer had provided housing for me, and a college friend of mine had driven over from Tucson, AZ to help me settle in. The apartment didn’t allow cats, but I was told by my employer that I could just keep my cat smuggled away as long as she didn’t make a lot of noise. Everything worked out, and the move couldn’t have gone better. I had a great first month there, and made fast friends with a coworker. The best part of the deal was the large pool at the apartment complex, and on weekends I could be found there with a glass of wine and my beach towel. I was living my best life, to be sure. I had gotten out of my hometown, and was really doing something with myself. I felt sorry for all the others who were still stuck back in Oklahoma. My dreams were going to be bigger than that.
Well, for all my glory and glamour I couldn’t quite sustain life in Arizona. The downward spiral began when my coworker invited me hiking one day. I knew to be careful because I had experienced a few heat exhaustions before, but I was young and strong so nothing bad would happen to me—or so I thought at the time. After about 15 minutes of hiking, I began to feel something was really wrong. I suddenly noticed that I could not feel my legs. I started to get dizzy, and I was feeling really strange. I knew I had to get out of the heat and fast. I suddenly noticed I had to urinate; luckily there was a nearby public restroom on the hiking trail. I also remembered the wine I drank the night before, and realized just how dehydrated I really was.
While in the restroom, I began to feel dizzy and the room started to spin. I don’t know how I made it out of the bathroom, but when I did I called to my coworker to take me home. On the drive home, we didn’t have the air-conditioning on, but I was starting to feel better nonetheless. By the time I got home, I thought I was fine, but I was wrong again. My thinking wasn’t quite right, and I began to do everything I shouldn’t do to recover from a heat stroke. I started to get really cold when I got back into my apartment. I was so cold that I thought I should take a hot shower—the wrong thing to do. I then felt really tired, so I thought making some coffee might perk me up—again, the wrong thing to do.
To make a long and painful story short, the doctors told me I sustained an intense heat stroke. Having experienced a few mini heat exhaustions prior to this, I chided myself for not realizing how vulnerable I was to the heat. I had really messed up my whole life by my ignorance and denial. My body didn’t feel quite right, but the doctors just said that would pass. I felt cold when I was hot, and hot when I was cold. My internal thermostat was on the fritz. Even when I was getting in and out of the car to enter an air-conditioned building, the extreme temperature change affected me deleteriously. I was finally forced to realize the seriousness of what happened after nearly passing out one day at work. I was convinced I was going to die of a heart attack or worse, and the doctors didn’t know why I wasn’t getting better. I felt terrified of dying all alone, so I decided to move back home. My mom was my safe place, so I high tailed it back home to lick my wounds.
I came crawling back home to my mom feeling like a bit of a failure. I was in a state of disbelief that I had this rare temperature control issue, and I felt very ashamed that I had failed at all my big dreams. I felt like everything had changed for me, and that I had no hope in ever succeeding again. How could I do anything if I was getting overheated in the 80 degree weather? The doctors couldn’t figure out why this was happening either, so I felt completely hopeless. I thought the issue would be better when I was out of the desert climate, but I was still struggling back in Oklahoma. So, there I was back in my hometown again, and I hadn’t amounted to anything. I was just a small town girl all over again, and now I would have to find a job from scratch. The next few weeks were pretty rough. I was pounding the pavement for work, and trying to recreate my life. It was the heat of summer, and so I had to be in and out of the hot car to run errands and deliver job applications—that’s how it was done back in the 90s, as the internet wasn’t as huge then. Well, after a particularly long day in the car I realized something wasn’t quite right with my body. I felt very dizzy, and I couldn’t seem to cool down no matter what I did.
I decided to try and sleep so that my body would relax and eventually cool down on its own. I laid down, and tried my best to get comfortable, but I started to feel really strange. Then, my body began to feel weightless, like it was floating up towards the ceiling. Terrified and unsure of what was happening to me, I felt sure I was about to die from yet another heat stroke.
Feeling helpless and panicked, this moment was a turning point for me and I cried out to the Lord for the first time in a long time. The very minute I called on Jesus, something amazing happened. I immediately felt a cool sensation that started out in my neck, and then began to spread throughout the rest of my body. The weightless feeling disappeared, and I was back on the bed with normal gravity. Shell shocked at what had just happened, I praised God right then and there. I thought I was about to die, but then I came back. I had never had an experience like that. I felt God saved me for a reason, but I didn’t know why.
I kept quiet about this for the most part, but it made an impression on me. However, after this near death experience, something in me changed. I became intent on finding this kind of supernatural experience again, because I wanted to feel close to Jesus. Sadly, instead of going to church, I began to crave more mystical experiences like the one I just had, and I had no clue how dangerous it was to seek this.
However, since I didn’t feel like God was really in the churches at that time, I set out to find Him wherever He was. I became very mystically minded, and because I wasn’t grounded in God’s word and had never read the Bible as an adult, I fell prey to all kinds of deception from Satan. I began to search for meaning in everything that happened to me, and I looked for signs everywhere, proof that God was in the world.
So, it was not surprising when a week later I awoke from the middle of a dream, experiencing what I believed to be the vision of my soul-mate…
When his face appeared, I recognized him immediately. It was as if I had known him before time existed. He looked at me, somehow peering deep down inside my eyes, down into my very soul. He spoke one word…’Love’.
Was this vision a result of the heat stroke I wondered? Did my near death experience give me a special ability to see the future? I wasn’t sure what it all meant then. This vision changed everything for me, the entire trajectory of my life and all my choices. My path to Jesus became a mystical journey towards finding my destiny, my soul’s true counterpart. One could not exist without the other.
After this experience, I began to exalt the idea of true love, and I placed it on the level where God should have been, therefore creating an idol. Nothing else mattered but finding love. Love became my religion. I wish I had known then that if you seek out mystical experiences, you are vulnerable to deceptive spirits.