I saw the movie "Twister." It was hair-raising. Even for a guy with not much hair to raise. But I kept telling myself, "It's just a story. Special effects."
What happened to the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes last week wasn't some computer-generated fantasy. The tornado they were chasing took an unexpected turn, picked up their vehicle and threw it some 200 yards.
The vehicle was flattened. Thankfully, Mike and his crew weren't. Some scratches, a couple of broken bones - but, amazingly, they're alive.
And now they're thinking about some things that are easy to forget. Which doesn't surprise me. I know the times I've been hit hard and thrown around have been my wake-up calls. The medical crisis. The betrayal. The accident. The funeral.
In those terrifying moments, airborne inside a tornado, Mike Bettes said, "My life flashed before me. The faces of people."
When we're thinking clearly - like when we could lose it all - we know what our life really is. The people. Unfortunately, they often get crowded out. While we're consumed with our projects...our possessions...our pleasure. Chasing our goal. Forgetting the people.
I was especially touched by one thing that storm-tossed storm chaser said about his near-death experience - "I just saw my wife's face."
That's the face I should always see. In all my big choices. Unobscured by all the other people I need to help or want to impress. She is the only one I've promised to love, cherish, protect, and listen to 'til death do us part. She shouldn't have to wait in line while I take time for everyone else.
After his unnerving brush with death, Mike Bettes said he's rethinking his tornado strategy. They got too close to the danger. That's been tragically underscored by news that three of those who died that day were storm chasers.
When a storm is shaking our world, it's time to rethink if we're pushing the limits and wandering into the danger zone.
The "innocent" flirtation at work that could blow up a family. The growing debt that's got us precariously balanced on the edge of a financial cliff. Our web of deceit that will one day entrap the deceiver.
"Tornado" moments are times to reassess. To ask questions you'd never otherwise ask. About the relationships you're neglecting. The risks you're taking. The priorities you're living by.
And the future you're facing. One storm-chasing survivor said, "It makes you think about your mortality."
A good thing to think about. The things that will matter after you're gone should matter while you're here. So you live for things that will outlast you.
The Bible reminds us that "your life...is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). Which tells me I should be looking past my short little journey here to what's beyond my last heartbeat.
Eternity. Which we need to be ready for. Which we're not. God's told us what's on the other side. "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). For everything we've ever done that was wrong in God's eyes. Which leaves me no hope of heaven.
Except one. If I know somehow I won't face God's judgment. And, thank God, I know my sin has been erased by a sinless God. Because His Son, Jesus, took my judgment when He died on that cross. "We have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ" (Romans 5:9 - NLT).
My life here is a mist. But not my life after that. Because "there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1 - NLT). And I do.
There is no greater peace than knowing you're ready for eternity. Whenever it comes.