Cats don’t really have nine lives, do they?
We had no pets at home when I was a kid, but my neighbor had a cat. One day, that cat came for a visit. Time for a test. I wasn’t wanting to mistreat the cat, but I had to know whether the old English saying was true.
I gently picked up the cat, threw it as high into the air as I could, and waited to see what would happen. Amazing. Just like I’d been told, the cat came down on its feet and ran off. I guess it didn’t want me to find out which of its nine lives I had used up.
People aren’t cats, always landing on their feet.
It’s been pretty well established that people have only one life. The writer of Hebrews says people die once, and after that, they are judged.
There have been exceptions, however, both in biblical history and in modern times, because when God intervenes, anything is possible. Perhaps you’re like me. You can remember a time when you had a close call and thought you might die. Actually, I have a long list of those, so many that you might call me “the cat with nine lives.”
In the winter of 1965, I should have died.
I was living in Hurst and working at Nash Hardware in downtown Fort Worth. The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-twenties and freezing rain the next morning. Most people would be smart enough to stay home, but not me.
I wanted to be one of the few people who showed up for work, so my boss might notice and give me a raise. I got up two hours early, before there were many cars on the road. I had to be careful not to slip on the icy driveway while I scraped the windshield so I could see.
With a vise-like grip on the steering wheel, I turned up the road, careful not to make any sudden moves that would put the car into a spin. I slowed at the intersection, but I didn’t come to a complete stop because I felt sure I’d have no traction to get going again.
Do you know how long it takes to drive ten miles at ten miles per hour? It seems like an eternity, and I was only about halfway there. Nevertheless, I was feeling quite good about myself. I hadn’t wrecked yet.
When I saw where the road dipped and measured the steep climb on the other side, I knew I was in trouble if I didn’t pick up enough downhill speed to coast up the other side without touching the brakes or turning the steering wheel. With a lump in my throat, I pushed the accelerator.
I took a deep breath as I reached the top of the hill, but then I choked when I realized that I could never make the unbanked curve ahead. In a second, I prepared for the inevitable slide across the road and into the ditch, totaling my car.
Then I saw the eighteen-wheeler coming around the curve and prepared to die. I whispered, “Jesus,” not as a curse word but more as a greeting, in full expectation that I would meet him in less than five seconds.
Momentum always takes an out-of-control car in a straight line. That’s an unavoidable law of physics, but that isn’t what happened. The car skidded inside the center stripe like a hockey puck guided by the curved wall. On the other side of the curve where the road straightened, I quit sliding and regained control.
With my heart pounding, my hands trembling, I was too busy thanking the Lord to pay much attention to the rest of the drive. Fortunately, no other drivers were in sight.
Evidently, God wasn’t ready to call me home yet.
I had certainly done all I could to get there, but he said no. My date hadn’t come yet.
The problem is, we don’t know when that day will be. Canned foods used to have what we call “expiration dates.” I know people who think the food goes bad at midnight on that date, and they won’t touch it after that—which is why the label now reads: Best if used by . . .
Here’s what I’ve learned.
From my experience and the canned-food label, since we don’t know when our expiration date will be, our best-used date should be today.