Today’s story seed is Love the One You’re With.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
Listen to today’s story seed. Howard Storm died and lived to tell about it. Storm, the chair of the art department at Northern Kentucky University was on a trip in 1985 to view artwork in Paris, France, when he had a medical emergency. He was rushed to the hospital with a perforation in his stomach. He and his wife were told that his life expectancy was two hours unless the hospital could find a doctor to operate on him.
It was 10 hours before the needed operation took place. In the meantime, Storm experienced death, and yet he survived. He described his experience in a book and a series of interviews available on Youtube. His near-death experience started when he woke up in the hospital room and felt better than ever, but he saw himself lying on the bed and his wife crying. He couldn’t communicate with her.
Some people called to him, and he got up and went to them in the hallway. They led him down a gray hall which little by little became totally dark. When he refused to go further, they began to pull him, punch him, and eventually rip at his skin. Storm says that he was entering hell and he didn’t know what to do. Lying on the floor he felt he would be there forever, and although he was an atheist, a song verse from his youth came into his mind. He said out loud, “Jesus loves me.” When he said those words, he saw the people tormenting him back off.
This adamant atheist became confused. As a child he believed in Jesus, and felt a deep love for his savior, but as an adult he had denounced that belief. In that moment, he felt an overpowering yearning to feel the love for Christ he had experienced as a child.
Storm said, “Jesus, please save me.”
He described what happened next: “And with that, a tiny light appeared in the darkness and it got very bright, a white light brighter than the sun and it was overwhelming because it was so bright. I wasn’t afraid, but I didn’t know if it was going to consume me. It was so bright. But instead, it was wonderful—filled with love. So, it wasn’t really light but a radiance, and out of it emerged hands and arms and he reached down and touched me.”
Held in Jesus’ arms, Storm became aware that they were traveling upward and eventually came to see what he described as “trillions of beings of light. God was there.” Storm called it, “God’s House.”
Jesus remained with him, and angels, beings of light, showed him scenes of his life. There was nothing about his honors or successes. “What they were showing was how I interacted with other people.” He saw how much he hurt his mother, and how he rejected attempts by his father to reconcile their differences.
Storm said he didn’t want to see any more. Jesus said to him, “You really need to see it. You need to understand.”
It became time for Storm to return to his life. Jesus instructed him “to love the person he was with.” Storm said to Jesus that he would build him a shrine to honor him. Jesus responded, “I don’t want you to do that. I don’t need a shrine. I just want you to love the person you’re with.”
Storm asked, “What good will that do?”
“It will change the world,” Jesus said.
Storm awoke in pain but to the good news that the doctor had arrived and the operation was about to happen. He lived, and the atheist art professor decided to go to divinity school. After that, he became a pastor at St. Mark’s United Church of Christ in Northern Kentucky.
You can read more about his story in his book My Descent into Death.
Storm listened to what Jesus said to him. Few of us will have an experience as vivid as his, yet each of us has a chance to answer as clearly as he did. Remember, he was a tenured art professor, chair of his department, and he gave all that up to become a pastor trying to follow what Jesus said to him.
If he can do it, perhaps you can, too. There are many ways to follow the invitation of Jesus. The first thing we need to do is ask for help. And then, listen. Sometimes when we listen, we don’t hear words; we feel things, or long for things. Look for the light. Keep listening. And act on what you hear.
Now let’s take 30 seconds to water the seed…
What feeling does Jesus give you in this very moment?