Seeing Your Life Flash Before Your Eyes in a God-Nudged Leap of Faith (Like Being in a Near Death Experience)

I will begin with an excerpt from the final scene of the movie American Beauty, narrated by the protagonist “Lester Burnham”- played by Kevin Spacey:

I’d always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time. For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout Camp, watching falling stars. And yellow leaves from the maple trees that lined our street. Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain. And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will someday.

I would venture to say that every living person is familiar with the idea of your own life flashing before your eyes right before you die- whether you actually die or it’s just a near death experience.  Interestingly, it’s not career titles or material possessions that are included in these flashes. Seeing your life flash before your eyes is a great way to be reminded of what’s truly important to you: People and the important events of our lives that involve them. “Loved ones”, as we tend to call these important family members, friends, and mentors- though sometimes that term is used more often after they have passed on.

Knowing that the living people who I am closest to are the most important and influential thing in my life, they became the inspiration for my leap of faith.  My wife and I decided that bringing our son into this world meant we should move to my hometown to be surrounded by family.  Honestly, it wasn’t that difficult for me to abandon the financial security we had back in Nashville.  Because again, it’s wasn’t financial security that showed up when I allowed my life to flash before my eyes.  On many levels it may seem foolish that we left steady jobs in a very unsteady job market, but we believed that God would honor our trust in Him to provide for us, knowing we deliberately chose family over financial security.

Though I’m not in a near death experience right now, in this God-nudged leap of faith, time is standing still as I see a constant slideshow of what I have lived through as well as what I hope to see once I land.  I struggle daily not to play the “what if?” game, regarding my past.  But at this point, it’s not about the decisions that led me to this difficult place.  It’s what God can do with this situation and how He can be seen by others because of it.  Not to mention, I know that this event will either enhance my faith through discipline and patience, or it will cause me to foolishly put faith in men who may or may not provide a job for me.

Fortunately, it’s not people who provide jobs anyway.  It’s not them who help me provide for my family.  It is completely God.  That’s something I have begun reminding myself daily.  And in the process, I have been directed to one of God’s Hebrew names: Jehovah Jireh.  It means “The Lord will provide”.  I have been getting in the habit of praying to Jehovah Jireh, as His name specifically declares His providence.

I am not hopeless.  I will personally admit that as a man who is designed to care for his family, not having a job though I am fully capable and qualified, is quickly taking away my dignity.  But really, is dignity what I am after?  No.  Seeking after God and only trusting in him, not men or corporations or even myself, is a humiliating process.  The word “humiliating” has such a negative connotation to it.  But being humbled is important.  Pride is to be damned, literally.  It only gets in the way.

So damn my pride to hell.  Damn my dignity too.  So what if every time a new door closes a new one opens, only to be shut just like the others.  More than once now my wife and I have seen the perfect jobs dangled right in front of us in job interviews, being one of two final candidates for the position.  But ultimately, the blessing of a job goes to the other person- a person who statistically predicting, would not jump at the chance to glorify God in the way we will once they get a job.  Or a sudden hiring freeze appears.  Something has always caused to the door to shut, so far.

I don’t even know anymore whether these “almost got the job” situations are a result of spiritual warfare in some lesser modern day story of Job or whether it is God Himself allowing these interceptions to increase our faith in Him.  As I watch our $10,000 in savings that we moved here with dwindle to less than half that now, I wonder if taking this leap of faith with $75,000 would have made any difference.  Because then we would have $65,000 more confidence in ourselves.

It’s not money we need- it’s jobs.  And men can’t provide those- only God can. Whatever the lesson is to be learned here, we will learn it.  God will provide. It’s His name, after all.  Jehovah Jireh, I believe it!

Proverbs 16:18
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 29:23
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.

Ecclesiastes 7:8
The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.

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dad from day one: Passing on the Family Name

Thirty-six weeks.

It wasn’t until this weekend while visiting my parents in Alabama that I fully realized something: When Baby Jack is born, he will be the only male Shell (beyond me) to pass on the name, unless I eventually have another son.  My mom was telling me how we will need to get a “generational picture” taken, including my grandfather (John Shell), my dad (Jack Shell), myself (Nick Shell), and Baby Jack.  My dad only has one brother (Johnny Shell) and he only had daughters.  And I have no brothers.  So Baby Jack will carry on the Shell name, which translates in German as “loud and noisy”.

While the namesake is just that, a name, it still carries on an idea of the people with that name.  Not only their bloodline and physical characteristics, but also a reputation of that name.  When I think of what the Shell name stands for, I think of my grandfather (who I call “Paw Paw Shell”), my Uncle Johnny, and of course, my dad, because they are the three male Shell’s most closely related to me.  They all work very hard, will do anything for the family, will not tolerate any b.s. or drama, are extremely down to Earth, have a passion for classic cars, prefer The History Channel over watching sports on TV, and will always choose the great outdoors over the city life because they all live in the wooded mountains (which is different than living out in the country, by the way).

Physically, male Shell’s are between 5’ 7” and 5’ 11” (no shorter, no taller), have dark brown or black hair, have a thin frame, have a fairly prominent nose (not noticeably huge, but never smaller than average), are known to show up at each other’s houses unannounced, and have a weak spot for Moon Pies.  For me, there is just something about being “a Shell” that is distinguished.  Not in a classy way like the Vanderbilt name, or Presidential like the Kennedy name, but it’s the idea that when you meet someone with the Shell name, you’ll never forget them.  Shell’s stand out from the crowd.  Not in a “loud and noisy” aspect like the name actually implies, but set apart in a sense that if you know one of us, you know all of us.  And really, that’s how I imagine most families are.

It’s in a man’s heart to want to pass on the family name.  Not just for the sake of legacy, but also because of pride.  And while pride is typically a bad thing, when it comes to family, pride is a necessary staple.  I am proud to be a Shell, and proud to bring another one into this world.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com