Helen Titus is one of the group of Kenyan students at a university that was attacked by terrorists last year. In what must have been a horrific experience, the terrorists led a group of students into a room and began to shoot them one by one. In the midst of the chaos, Helen decided to play dead. She took the blood of her friend lying next to her who had been killed, and she smeared it all over her to appear dead.
She was one of only several students found alive amid the 140 dead students.
Now, if you search the internet, you can find a brief summary of what happened in a lot of places. It is a horrific story, but with this amazing story of survival in the middle of it. And if you look around, no one asks the question I would ask:
What was it like?
What was it like, to be about to die and to look over next to you and see your friend, and to have their blood, their death save you? What is it like to go through all that? I mean, wow.
I imagine, if I were somehow to have the opportunity to ask her, I’d probably get a pause, and then maybe a few words. I’d probably get a look with some confusion. And finally, one way or the other, I’d get the message, “I can’t describe it. To know, you have to experience it for yourself.”
You know, that’s the same question I’d like to ask the good thief in the Gospel. What was that like? What’s it like to be about to die, and to look over at Jesus and have his blood, his death save your life forever. What’s it like to go through all that?
And if I asked him that, I bet I’d get the same response: “I just can’t describe it. You have to experience it for yourself.”
That’s why I think that when we are in heaven, we’re going to have a lot to share with the good thief. We’re going to know first hand what it’s like, and we’re going to be talking for a long, long time about just that.
What is salvation like? Well, priests or liturgies or books can’t teach you. And good behavior and punching the clock at churrch on Sunday doesn’t get you there either. There’s only one way to know what it’s like to be saved by God:
You have to experience it for yourself.
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”
I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
The LORD has chastened me sorely, but he has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:13-21)