Last month my family and I went to dinner at The Oasis. For those who aren’t familiar with this famous Austin restaurant, it’s a large restaurant with multi-levels overlooking Lake Travis. We happened to be sitting on the third level up on the outside balcony area where inside the restaurant itself was a live salsa band playing for a dance floor filled with exuberant salsa dancers. Because we were sitting on the balcony overlooking the water, throughout the night many people would squeeze by our table to pose against the rail to have their picture taken with picturesque Lake Travis in the background. With the salsa music, fine food and spirits flowing freely, everyone was in a good mood.
The evening had barely started, however, when we became aware of a drama begin to unfold on the far side of the bay on a sand spit. We saw the first emergency vehicle arrive and then not far behind it a second emergency vehicle – both with lights flashing. Soon the sand spit was filled with flashing lights – both on the shore as well as on the water as emergency crews arrived in boats. Within moments after that we saw star flight arrive on the scene and proceed to methodically fly back and forth over the water.
We soon learned the emergency crews were looking for a drowning victim – a young man who had gone into the water but had failed to surface. What we were witnessing was a rescue mission but if, after 20 minutes, they were unable to locate the victim, it would then become a recovery effort.
We watched as the minutes slipped away and still no sign that the young man had been found. And then, the crucial 20 minutes passed as the emergency crews continued their frantic search. And as the minutes continued to slip away, whatever hope there had been began to slip away too. And then it became apparent that we were no longer witnessing a rescue mission, but a recovery mission. The search was still going on when we left the restaurant some time later.
I felt such sadness for the young man and his family. Although I didn’t know who he was, I have two sons of my own so it wasn’t at all hard for me to imagine the overwhelming moment when the family had to face the reality that their loved one was dead.
That night and later the next day I continued to reflect upon the past evening. And so as I began to piece the evening’s chain of events together, I had these thoughts.
That evening as my family and I were walking across the dance floor to find our table on the balcony, at that same moment just across the bay, loved ones were frantically calling 911 for help.
And then for the next 15 minutes, as party-goers laughed and chatted away as they squeezed past our table to pose against the handrail oblivious to the tragedy unfolding directly behind them, emergency crews and divers were frantically working against time to save a young man’s life. And as the next salsa number came up and new dancers filled the dance floor, with sadness and frustration the emergency workers realized their efforts to find the young man had failed. And as the photo shoots continued until the horizon lost it’s red glow with the setting of the sun, the family across the water were faced with the reality their loved one was dead.
Were we the only ones who were cognizant of the tragedy that had just occurred within view of The Oasis balcony? I scanned the crowd and no one else seemed to be looking that direction. In fact, it seemed most of the people were facing the opposite direction so they could watch the salsa band and dancers.
Yet, if the people around us had not been so consumed with the festivities of their immediate surroundings, they might have noticed the flashing red lights of the emergency vehicles as they began to light up the lakeshore on the far side. And had they noticed the lights, they might have become aware that there was a life and death situation unfolding before their eyes. And then if they had paused even longer to consider the implications of the scene, perhaps they might have even reflected upon the uncertainty of life and even their own lives.
But therein lies the real tragedy. That night as I sat between two starkly different worlds encompassing two starkly different circumstances, it occurred to me that whether one was happy or grief stricken depended upon which shore one was standing on. And that it’s not up to us at any given moment which shore we will find ourselves standing on.
In Luke 12:15-21, Jesus told the parable of a certain rich man who decided to tear down his old barns to build bigger ones. The rich man was planning ahead so that in his retirement years he could simply eat, drink and be merry. But what did Jesus say to him? “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” In other words, we should not be so concerned with the material things of this world or be consumed with making plans for the immediate future but instead have our eyes fixed on things above because we never know when our very lives will be taken away!
As that young man went about his day, I can be reasonably confident he had no idea that within hours he would be dead. If he had, I believe he would have firmly fixed his thoughts on things of eternity, rather than the temporal things of this world.
Let this be a wake-up call! Neither you nor I are guaranteed even another minute to live. Without warning, that muscle within your chest cavity could suddenly stop beating and you will find yourself suddenly propelled into eternity. So do you know where you will spend eternity?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, then you are on the wide road to hell because contrary to what most people believe, heaven is not the default destination. (Matthew 7:13, 14) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) To put our feet on the narrow road to heaven requires a conscious decision to surrender our will, repent of our sinfulness and ask Jesus Christ to be our Lord. That could be your family standing on the sandbar one day. Listen, we all make wrong decisions in this life, but this is one decision we do not want to be wrong about because it concerns where we spend eternity. Every one of us… you and I, will find ourselves one day on that far shore facing death. That’s reality. So what’s preventing you right now from making sure your future in heaven is secure? Not to choose is to choose. Please don’t choose wrong. After all, eternity is a long time to regret it.