by Mark Wattenford
Death By Poisoning
Some months after the car wreck I encountered another brush with death and another trip out of my body. At the time I was taking medication for a potential ulcer condition. Ulcers ran in the family. I use to hang around with a guy that took medication for some other reason. Anyway, I was in the bathroom after my friend had just left from a visit and I reached down grabbed my pills and took them. The problem was that they were not my pills they were my friends and he had left a few on the bathroom counter. They looked so much like my own I did not pay enough attention to the fact that they were not. Not knowing yet what I had done I left the bathroom and proceeded down the hall. Then I started feeling strange. Then I started feeling my heart start to pound. I went toward the couch to sit down, but even before I could get there I broke out into a drenching sweat. It was like perspiration just exploded from my pores. I was drenched. I sat on the edge of the couch and my heart started to beat very strong and breathing was getting harder. My chest was starting to bulge from the force of my heart. I slumped back on my back in hopes of calming down. As I lay there on my back I looked downward across my chest and my rib cage was bulging with each heartbeat. Then my heart gave one giant push and it seemed my rib cage raised three inches and froze. That was it. I was gone. I was no longer in my body in California. I was now hovering at the ceiling in the house I grew up in on 8th Ave. in Spokane Washington. I was in the living room and I could not believe the magnitude of the peace I felt just being out of my body. The clarity of everything around me was like the difference in waking up from a dream into reality. I had 360 degree vision. The calm, the peace, the joy I felt was indescribable. I wasn't in heaven; there was just that much peace and joy being out of a body that was continually warring for its way. It is amazing how much we endure just having to live in a body which is subjected to the curse of sin. The colors were so bright. My senses were so keen and sharp. I could see out the front door across over to the neighbors house. The sun light was so pure and golden to me it looked like the air was filled with liquid gold. I was just soaking up this wonderful experience without any realization, at first, as to how I got there. Then I started to contemplate how I did get there. Let's see, the last thing I remember was that I was in California. Let's see, I was sitting on the couch and there was something wrong with my heart. O my gosh the last thing was that my heart gave one last heave and stopped and now I'm here!
Now in the midst of this overwhelming wonderment came a sense of overwhelming grief. I figured I was dead, but I was not grieving that I had died. I was taken by extreme grief that either my mother, my sister, or my brother was going to find my body and I did not want them to have to go through that. I felt so horrible that they would find me dead and wanted so desperately that they need not have to be subjected to that. Then I became aware of two individuals off in the distance conversing with each other and the subject of their conversation was me. They were speculating on what decision was about to be made concerning me. Then some spiritual realm opened up below me and it was an entryway into Hell. I could see, peripherally, the flames of Hell far below me, but I did not look directly downward. I was suspended between Heaven and Hell still aware of earth and feeling as though my eternity was being weighed in the balance. I could see what was like a highway before me made of pure transparent gold that led up to the very throne of God. Even with the prospect of Hell below me and that I might soon be on my way there it never took hold me. I was so consumed with the concern of my family finding me dead I could think of nothing else. I felt so responsible. I wanted to make it right. I did not want them to suffer that. But I had no idea how to get back to my body, or how to get back in it or even how to get it jump started again. So here I was standing before God stripped of myself once again in what turned out to be my second, "O, God" statement. That's all I could do again. I had a situation I could do nothing about and I just fell before God saying, "O, God". Whoosh! I went flying through the air and there I was above the roof of the apartment where we lived. I could see through the roof and my body lying on its back on the couch. And like going down a playground slide I slid down through the ceiling, through the top of my head and back into my body. My eyes popped open and I lay there totally astonished thinking of the peace and joy I had felt and how thankful I was that I would not be found dead. I do not know who or what those two beings were that were contemplating my fate. I figured they were angels or other saints that had already gone on to be with the Lord, but I could not tell which they were. They were one or the other. What in the world had happened to me? I lay there for a little while until I felt it was safe to get up and walk around. I got up and went to the bathroom to try piece together what had happened to me. Was it my medicine that did this. Why had it done it this time and not before. I went into the bath room and there on the counter were a couple of remaining pills. On closer investigation I realized these were not my pills. They were Tim's.
I did find out from a doctor sometime later what had occurred. It was a chemically induced cardiac arrest. And, thank the lord again, because of the make up and reaction of the medicine on my heart it did not do it any damage. It just stopped it. So for a bit I was a dead person with a perfectly good heart it had just stopped and was in need of someone knowledgeable in jump starting hearts, God.
Now I was really starting to wonder about death and the hereafter. I had received Christ at twelve years old at camp in Cedar Crest in the San Bernardino mountains, but I was about 18 now and had wandered quite a ways from God or doing what he wanted me to do. These experiences were definitely giving me cause to get back. The car wreck, life passing before my eyes, and now this and seeing hell below me! Was I even saved?
That question, Was I saved?, became more and more the priority in my thoughts. I had two encounters with death and in both situations the question seemed to be whether I was saved or not. I had asked the Lord into my life and accepted him when I was twelve, but my life did not have any signs that would verify it. In fact I had grown to hate Christians. My mind pondered and pondered. It went over and over the car wreck to the point where I began to think maybe I really did die and everything around me was just a continuing delusion from life and that soon it would all dissolve and I would find myself in hell. That's right I really began to think and to believe things like that. My concern and fear of not being saved was becoming so strong I was starting to lose touch with reality. It got so bad that I quite literally at times felt that if I heard a pin drop it would put me over the edge.
I was directing theater
at Biola college in La Mirada California as I was approaching the worst of my
condition. I just barely made it through directing the play, Revolt At The Portholes
when I received a job offer in Bottineau, North Dakota where I grew up. I thought
maybe getting out of L.A. and working and being away from everything there might
help so I went. I haphazardly threw clothes and a few of my books into a suitcase
and off I went. I did not know what inspiring little book I had thrown into
my suitcase until I was there in North Dakota staying with my uncle. My Aunt
worked in the hospital in question so she set up the interview. I went and I
did not get the job. I thought the job was all arranged. So there I was with
nothing to do in North Dakota, but to sit there with my thoughts; and my thoughts
were killing me. I got into my suitcase and there was a little book called "The
A.B.C.s of Fasting". I had no idea what fasting was. I was brought up in
a Baptist church with my mother and a Lutheran church with my Grandmother. So
what was fasting? I read it and it explained how it is the way to get hold of
God. That is what I had to do. I had to get a hold of God. I felt very literally
that I had to get hold of God or one of two things was
going to happen. I would either go insane from the fears I was having or it would kill me and I did not think that was an exaggeration. So it was not a matter of a choice to go on a fast to seek God. It was a matter of survival. I started my fast. I had nothing but water. I thought I would read my Bible through while I was on it so I started at Genesis. Now I had been to church all my life, but I did not know the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament so when I got to the part in Exodus about having to sacrifice bulls and stuff for my sins I got real discouraged because I did not know how in the world I was going to get a bull to offer for my sins or even how I was to go about it. That added to my depression and my confusion. After the third day of my fast my mind became so unbelievably clear. It was like having a super mind. It became so aware of everything and I could remember things throughout my whole life in such clarity. The trouble was I could remember my sins with increased clarity. I was becoming plagued more and more not by the spirit of conviction which is from God but by the spirit of condemnation and accusation which is from the enemy. It was at times an incredibly wonderful experience as my spirit would soar with hope and then would become a living nightmare as faces would come before me in my bed and accuse me of every sin I had done and even sins I hadn't done as long as I would believe them. There is where I learned that one of Satan's axioms is "If it works. use it". He started telling me I was the re-incarnated Judas Iscariot and I was going to hell and that God allowed me to be re-incarnated only as part of his mercy because I was going to hell for betraying Christ in a former life. Mind you I did not have a real solid Christian foundation under me to know that reincarnation was garbage or not. I mixed every idea I heard with Christianity to see where it was suppose to fit, not knowing that a lot of it was not suppose to fit at all. Satan used all these bizarre thoughts to really rattle my cage. He said World War I and World War II and Viet Nam were all my fault. Like I said if he thinks it will work he'll use it. He has no scruples in such things. I must say I know this was a much harder fight for my salvation than usual and the reason is that our family has, for many years, been involved with the occult. I made a pact with Satan at about 14 or 15 years old and what I asked for in that pact I got. That was part of my battle now. He was telling me I belonged to him and there was no hope of going to heaven or receiving Jesus and all this fast crap wouldn't do me any good.
I had a phone conversation with my mother about the eighth day of my fast and mentioned how concerned I was that I could not find or afford to get a bull to sacrifice for my sins and she asked what in the world had I been reading. I told her I had started at the beginning of the Bible and got upset when I found I needed to sacrifice a bull. Well I found out that was bull. She tried to explain to me about being in a different dispensation and to read the New Testament first because that is what had to do with me. O.K., I thought I'll do that. In my mind I was still thinking, "What's a dispensation"? It could have been some kind of a duck for all I knew. So I started reading the New Testament. I started to read how I didn't need a bull or a lamb and that Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God. Boy was that ever a joyful moment to read that I did not have to find my own bull, besides I didn't need any more bull in my life. I was dealing with all I could handle at the time; thinking I had caused World War II and all. Then I started reading about something called a "Holy Spirit". "What in the world is a Holy Spirit!?" The Bible said that Jesus said that when he went he was sending back the comforter. Man! What is a Comforter! I want to know! I need something to comfort me.
This was getting to be about the twelve day of my fast now. I was still walking on pins and needles about my salvation. I felt condemned to hell most of the time but I kept pursuing God. Sitting in the kitchen of my Aunt's place and my uncle sitting there having lunch on break from work I began to share what I was reading about the Holy Spirit thinking it would be a wonderful conversation and maybe since my Aunt always seemed so involved with church she could add some light on the matter. So I opened up and said how I was reading in the Bible about something called the Holy Spirit and how it says God gives us that when we become Christians and that we receive power to do things I had never heard about before in church. I mean it said that sick people would get healed and all kinds of stuff. So there I sat at the kitchen table waiting for some piece of wonderful advice and edification to proceed out of the mouth and off the tongue of my seemingly seasoned christian aunt. She began to scream at me, "You leave that Holy Spirit stuff alone, That stuff is of the Devil. You'll go crazy and go to hell if you mess with that. That Holy Spirit crap is straight out of hell." Would you believe me if I told you I sat there in shock; not minor shock, major shock. Boy was I confused. This was my aunt who was always doing things with ladies groups at church and carried her Bible around and here was a Bible in my hands that talked about a Holy Spirit and receiving power from God and that it was good and part of our inheritance. I wondered if we had the same Bible. She was in such an uncontrollable rage I thought I just better sit there and be quiet.
Over the next few days the air was thick as tar. My fast was continuing and that was worrying both my aunt and my uncle and now that I was getting hung up in this Holy Spirit stuff they were getting real agitated. About the 16th day she gave me an ultimatum. She said that I had to get off the fast and leave all that crap alone or I had to go back to California. It was not a choice to me. I was still fighting for my life and my sanity. So I just said I would start packing.
So there I was again back in California still battling with my salvation. Now it was the 18th day, then the 19th day, then it was the 20th day. I wanted to go 40 days like they seem to do in the Bible. I guess I had the thought that it had to be 40 days to be a real fast. It had to be 40 days to get the answers you were looking for, but lying there on the 20th day I began to get little twinges for something to eat. I had not been at all hungry in all those days. Hunger leaves you after the second or third day. I felt that it was time to end the fast. So, after much contemplation on whether to end it or not I decided to do so and to try do what my little A.B.C.s of Fasting book said to do to break a fast. Do it slow and easy. All I was suppose to have after that length of time was about an ounce or two of orange juice. So I poured my self a small glass and took a sip. My Gosh! That was the strongest tasting stuff. Having been on a fast for so long and cleaning out my body had sharpened my sense of taste and I could not handle how strong that orange juice tasted. So I mixed it about 10 to 1 with water. I sipped it again and it was plenty tasty even diluted that much. Then as I stood there in the kitchen taking little sips of orange juice I noticed in the cupboard a bag of marshmallows. I thought I would nibble on one marshmallow with my orange juice. That seemed safe to me. Pretty tasty stuff! Not exactly a great combination, orange juice and marshmallows, but very tasty. After I had finished I lay on the couch and thought, O.K. God I have done what I can. I am leaving my soul and salvation in your hands. I closed my eyes and just sort of began to, what I call "twilight". That's where you are not really asleep, but you are not really awake and you are aware of it. You are conscious of the fact that you are just "twilighting". Then, poof, I was gone again, out of my body. I was sitting in a chair as solid as anything in this life. It seemed it was suspended in mid air above what seemed to be hell. I could see the flames lashing upwards towards me. And there in front of my face was Satan cursing me and reminding me of everything I had done and what an idiot I was to expect to be saved. And he stuck his face in mine and unceasingly and mercilessly went on and on with his accusations. I was so stricken with the fear of the truth of so much of what he was saying. I did not know what to do. I could not defend myself. I was guilty. I was a sinner and not a small one. My mind groped for what to do. I was unable to speak. My hands were limp at my sides. And then the only thought that came to me was the memory of how my mother taught me to fold my hands in prayer when I was a little boy of about 3 years old. I thought, that's what I'll do. I'll just put my hands together to pray. As I began to raise my hands Satan jumped back as though I had shocked him for some reason. Then in the same moment I felt an unseen force between my hands pushing them apart. Satan did not want my hands to come together in prayer. I did not know he was so affected by the mere thought of someone deciding to pray. It was an incredible force pushing my hands apart. It felt like it became a battle for my life and I put everything I had into just putting my hands together. I seemed to break out in a sweat which is in itself interesting since I was out of my body in some place I couldn't tell where and wondered why I seemed to have a body at all. In desperation I pushed and pushed and my hands slowly moved toward each other and the closer they got the more desperate the look on Satan's face became. After a long struggle my two hands finally came close enough for just my middle fingers on both hands to touch each other. At that point, as they touched, I was totally drained of energy and I cried out in a voice so loud it seemed like it filled the universe. "O, God!" That was the third time out of my body and the third, "O, God". The very micro-second I cried that out Satan, the chair, the flames, the whole room shot out forward away from me like watching the Enterprise shift from pulse drive into warp 9.8. And it went with a funny high pitched shrieking whizzing sound. I was in a void for just a moment's time when something came from the distance at me and again with a strange kind of sound, but this was a low pitched "rumming" sound. I thought this scene had come to me. I have since reflected on the thought that maybe I was the one traveling and I went to it. Anyway there was a flesh and bone person before me. And before I could even think to speak I heard my own voice say, "It's really you". I was surrounded by the Shekina Glory of God and there, sitting on a very large pure white boulder, was Jesus Christ. My attention sort of spiraled in on him first noticing the peripheral things. I saw he was bare footed then my attention working clock wise noticed his robe and how absolutely unbelievably white it was. It was so white there are no words on earth to describe it. Everything on earth are just ugly shades of gray in comparison. My attention went up to his shoulders and I saw his hair like the color of ripe black olives just brushing the tops of his shoulders. Coming around about waist level I was reveling again in the brightness of his robe. Then up to his cheek. He was looking off to the side with his right side toward me. His cheeks were so emaciated looking like someone who had not eaten. He was, by our standards a homely looking guy, but I was at this point quite confused at what I saw. He had no beard as I had grown up to think of him as having and he had these horrible sort of pock marks in his cheeks sort of like you see people who have had extreme cases of acne that have severely disfigured their face. That very much puzzled me. Then my attention moved up his face and there I caught him eye to eye. There are no words ever made on earth to convey what I saw. They were like flames of black fire and it was as though I were looking into another universe within him that was without limits, that was endless in size and that was made of the pure substance of Love. I was looking into an endless universe of pure Love. Then it was as if I were holding a case of dynamite that went off in my hands. The power I encountered in his eyes blew me backwards with such force I felt I was propelled through the entire universe and maybe I was. I began to slow down and then I could see the ceiling in front of my face. It was only about an inch in front of my face. I was hovering up by the ceiling again in the apartment and I could see my body below me on the couch. I slowly began to float downward like one of those slow falling dandelion seed "puffs". Slowly I descended toward my body and as I entered in through my chest I could feel my body grasp hold of me again. It felt like two giant ugly claws coming up from both sides and grabbing me with a "thud". It was a sickening feeling having come from glory and re-entering an un-glorified chunk of sin racked flesh we call our bodies.
I knew what I had seen. I knew, that I knew, that I knew I had just been face to face with Jesus Christ himself, but I had a problem. I had never heard of this ever having happened to anyone before. I wondered if I was the only one in the whole world. I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't know if I should tell someone or what. That was my very first prayer just moments after having returned. I prayed, "Lord if this has happened to anyone else please show me and lead me to them to confirm what I have just gone through". Over just the next few weeks God brought me to about 60 other people that had relative experiences.
It was about 3-1/2 months later that the confusing puzzle was solved about why Jesus did not have a beard when I saw him. In fact it became a question in my mind whether I had seen the real Jesus or not because he did not have a beard. But then one glorious day when reading my Bible there I read that as they brought him before Pilate and the crucifixion they pulled his beard out by the handfuls. That explained it! I had seen the real Jesus and what I saw in that pocked and scarred looking face were the scars of them having pulled and ripped his beard out by the roots.
Jesus had an emaciated, scarred and homely face, but I can say from true experience that if heaven had nothing else to offer it would suffice just to sit and look into his face for all eternity.