FENTON, MI – The 1967 Chevelle had been sitting at the end of the driveway for a long time. Today, it’s considered a classic, but back then, it was just an old car. Nobody drove it. I was in high school, had my license, and wanted a car of my own. Mom said I could drive the Chevelle if I could get it running.
As a result, it was the car I drove to take Shar on our first date. I walked her to the car, opened the door for her to get in, and closed it when she was seated. Then I popped open the hood, unscrewed the lid to the air filter, put a screwdriver into the throat of the carburetor, got in the car, and turned the key. It’s the only way the car would start! Then I reversed the process and off we went. Those were the days. I had some good times in that car. It gave me freedom I had never known. I could go further, faster.
It was a hot afternoon in Michigan, the kind of hot when sweat drips off your face even when you’re just sitting. Our house didn’t have air conditioning, and there was no place to escape the heat. It was hot everywhere - the perfect day for a swim. My two brothers, ages 12 and 2, jumped in the Chevelle and we took off to the lake for a swim.
Perhaps you can identify with me. I’ve never been one to walk steadily into cold water. I like to go slow and get accustomed to the water, especially as it gets to the mid-section. There was no doing that at this lake. There was a sharp drop off to deep water just a few feet from shore. My 12-year-old brother and I were challenging each other to be the first to jump into the deep water as we splashed each other. I turned to check on my two-year old brother. He was supposed to be playing on the land behind us, but he was nowhere to be seen. Instinctively, I looked into the water and my worst fear was confirmed. His head was under the water and he was sinking in the deep part where the lake dropped off. In that moment, I forgot about everything else and lunged into the deep to pull my brother to safety.
He wasn’t breathing and I had no idea how to revive a drowning victim. This was long before cell phones and there was no way to call for help. We were too far away to get in the car and drive to get help quickly. I remember carrying him in my arms out of the water and quickly laid on the ground and started pushing on his chest and stomach. My heart was sinking as the seconds passed. There was no response. Then I lifted him up, bent him over my arm and hit him on the back with my hand. Every second felt like an eternity, even though it was all happening so fast. I’ve never been so scared.
My brother’s life was hanging in the balance. Would he live? Was he going to die? My mind was racing; What do I do next? Why didn’t he just stay on the bank like I told him? One minute we were laughing and having a good time. The next - he was hanging unresponsively over my arm. I was afraid, confused, angry, and in disbelief all at the same time. I definitely went further, faster that hot Michigan afternoon. I was learning just how quickly life can turn, how fragile it is, and how powerless I am when life literally hangs in the balance.
I think back to that moment on the lake from time to time, especially when I see people hurting each other. Relationships are complicated and breakable. They bring great joy and meaning to our lives. They’re also messy and can be difficult. Whatever is happening, it sure feels different when someone you love is hanging breathless over your arm.
I know how this story ended. How about you? Do you know what will come of your life once its over? Do you worry about not having a relationship with the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ? Do you know?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.