IT TOOK A PLANE CRASH AND TRIP TO CUSP OF HELL, BUT IN THE END OHIO MAN 'FELL INTO HEAVEN'
There is much to learn from this book called Falling Into Heaven by a fellow named Mickey Robinson, born a Catholic and reborn into the afterworld -- at least briefly, during the crash of a small plane.
He was young. He was brash. He was an elite skydiver. He was from Ohio.
He flew above the world but was also very much of it, learning, as he puts it, "that most high-performance skydivers believed in little more than themselves. Some would even curse and mock God before jumping off the step. That part seemed strange to me. I just ignored it because I was so taken by the sport and its top guns."
Prince of the power of the air! "Their religion was free fall and their altar was the sky," he remarks. "Beyond that, not much mattered." (How many professions and endeavors are like that?)
Robinson was brought back into Christianity -- strong belief -- by his near-death episode.
It happened way back on August 15, 1968 (does that day ring a bell?). The plane crashed shortly after it lifted off, spiraling downward. He came within minutes of fatal incineration. As an ambulance carried away his horribly burned body, deep in his memory the Act of Contrition reverberated ("Oh my God, I am heartily sorry...").
It's hard to begin to summarize the injuries he suffered.
His skin was burned off. He was blind in one eye and greatly afflicted in the second. His face was a charred pulp. His legs were so damaged he was told he would never walk again. Nerve endings were destroyed. He was given the Rite of Extreme Unction by a priest from St. Michael's (a local church from which he had strayed). "The ancient prayer [also] called me back from behind the heavy curtain of shock," he writes. "I didn't know what the Latin words meant, but they penetrated to a place far beyond hearing."
Et suam piisimam misericordiam indulgeat tibi Dominus quidquid deliquisti.
"Whatever sins I'd committed through the five senses had now been covered by the forgiving Hand of God," he learned. "Strangely, the locations on my body that the sacrament is designated to be anointed with oil were the five most severely damaged places on my body."
Nightmarish pain. Fading hope. They fully expected him to die. Half of his nineteen-year-old body was a black, oozing wound. You could see the inside of his jaw, as if a quarter of his face had melted off.
Let's cut to the "chase":
Mickey suddenly found himself out of his physical body -- following a doctor down the hall. "When his foot stepped on the automatic door opener," said Mickey of the doctor, "the door swung open toward us, and it went right through me as if I was made of nothing!"
There was nothing more, he heard a doctor say (on another occasion) that medical science could do for him.
Soon, an eerie feeling crept over him, as if the switches inside his body were being turned to the "off" position.
His pain medication was maxed out.
He was having experiences such as seeing through the wall.
Was it just the medication?
Suddenly, he had 360-degree sight, and like so many, saw unearthly colors. Everything was brilliant and fascinating.
Studies have shown that such experiences involve visions that are too cohesive, lucid, and meaningful to be drug hallucinations. "Then suddenly, like a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon, my inner being, my spirit, and my soul separated from my physical body," he writes. "I felt my lower torso and legs go through the mattress and the bed frame. I looked myself over. My spiritual body was whole. My right hand was not mangled but perfect. No burns, no scars, no blemishes at all."
He was drawn by a pure white light ("brighter than a thousand suns but peacefully comforting") but as he approached it felt "like a pressure" against his right side and when he turned, saw utter darkness.
"It was blacker than the blackest black, an abyss of complete emptiness, and I knew it was forever. The condition of a soul enclosed in this bottomless darkness is beyond dreadful. This aloneness would be final. Never-ending. Forever."
He was on the edge, the cusp, of hell.
And as Robinson gazed at it, unimaginable terror kept magnifying.
Infinite solitary confinement.
However, he mustered enough strength to scream out, "Please God, I want to live. I want to live. Please give me another chance!" And instantly he was drawn out of the darkness and thrust into the radiant portal, "bursting into the very Presence of Almighty God."
He was bathed in pure, perfect love. Just as instantly, he realized he would live forever.
"Standing in this pure radiance, I did not see any image, form, or shape, yet I knew it was a Person," he recounts. "The regal majesty of this Person pierced me like countless laser beams. God is infinite in every direction. From His Throne emanates all power, all wisdom, all ecstatic splendor, and unquestionable authority, all governed by unrelenting supreme love."
Everything touched by the River of Life that flows from that Throne bursts into life.
You can read more of his account in the book. There are those lessons to be learned. There is the fact that his pleas for forgiveness had been inspired by a subconscious remembrance of a priest who had taught him a prayer. There is the lesson that upon entry into Heaven, all negativity vanishes -- all types of shame, remorse, and fear. There is realization: we do review our lives. Mickey saw how the wrong associations had harmed him. He saw the pathways (and diversions) of his life. He was shown how all those rock-music festivals back in the Sixties "were like some kind of ritual" (not a good one). He saw how the Lord takes what is meant for evil and turns it to good. He also saw how God often helps us by inhibiting our wrong plans. He saw the crucial nature of "chronic obedience" (listening to His Voice). He saw that God heals what doctors say cannot be healed. He saw that "men tend" while "God mends." He saw how the devil accuses us, to ourselves. But he also saw how God then comes and blows away the enemy. He saw that "love never fails and love never ends."
Lessons, this Advent.
Later, lightning struck just outside his window when he prayed a simple potent prayer: "God, I'm sorry, but I don't know what You want me to do. Show me what I am supposed to do!"
Today, this expert skydiver is an evangelistic minister.
[resources: Falling Into Heaven and What You Take To Heaven]
[See also: Retreat announced for Orlando (February)]
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