Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thinking of heaven again

Okay, I think of heaven a lot. I suspect Christian folks embattled by illness do that quite a bit. I've also read and listened to way too many testimonies about folks happy jaunt in heaven. (Before the evil annoying doctor whisked them back to their ailing bodies.) So, yeah, everyday heaven and death are on my mind. I don't mind death, actually. Although the process of dying makes me slightly nervous. I'm trusting I'll die healthily.

Anyway, the thing is it's occurring to me that although I have reached the point in life where I have more friends in heaven (or at least I hope they're in heaven) than I have on earth I am beginning to wonder if I'll actually be happy there. Why? you ask.

Honestly, I want God to put me in the flaky-side of heaven. Many of the Christian's I've met on earth have been lovely people but far far too many have been horrendous little cookie-cutters. True, an American Christian in heaven will most likely have lost all the American trappings of their spirituality but dang will they still be their unloving selves? I'm thinking of that phrase, "the spirits of just men made perfect." So yeah, it's possible that when we die God perfects our faith, hope, and love and we become quite decent people. And yet, in heaven I so want to be where the oddball Christians are.

Yeah, unfortunately, I am one of those Christians who find many American Christians unbearable, shallow, and judgemental. Okay, many folks of many religions and many atheist folks are unbearable, shallow and judgmental. But I'm talking about the folks I hang with -- Christians who should know better.

The Bible tells us to esteem each other more than ourselves. It tells us to be kindhearted to each other, and it tells us that Love is kind. Honestly, though, when was the last time you saw Christians who esteemed each other better than themselves? If a Christian meets another Christian who is dressed shabbily or whose house is a mess, that Christian is not going to assume well of the other Christian. More likely than not she will think the shabby house-messy Christian is unenlightened, lazy, etc. It will never ever ever occur to that judgmental Christian that perhaps there are health issues. No, the judgmental Christian will be stuck in her own I-am-better-than-this-person-who-I-am-judging-by-appearances. It happens all the time. And, bad enough I have to spend my time on earth avoiding such folks...will I have to do so in heaven? -C


Dawn Fortune said...

As you could probably guess, we have different ideas about the hereafter. I am struck, though, by a lesson I learned many years ago while I was still Catholic. It was a story about a man who went to heaven and was amazed at the people he saw there. He saw people he knew to be dishonest on earth sitting on the clouds. He saw adulterers and liars and thieves and all kinds of sinful people. St. Peter (this was a Catholic story, remember. Catholics are big on saints.) saw the confusion on his face and asked him what was troubling him so during his first hours in paradise. "There are a lot of people here that I did not expect to see," the man said. St. Peter laughed. "That's good, my dear friend, because there are a lot of people who are surprised to see you as well."

I think that lots more people will get into heaven than any of us can imagine. I think that many of our character defects, those things that make us a pain to be near, are based in our own pain and suffering. A greedy person is fearful of hunger. A miser fears poverty. An angry man is angry to keep people from seeing that he feels insecure. In heaven, those holes in our hearts that make us behave badly toward others on earth will be filled by god's love. We will no longer have the need to lash out.

According to the stories I was told as a child, when everyone gets to heaven, all old arguments are forgotten and forgiven. All conflicts dissolve in the bright light of god's love. Tiresome people on earth will no longer be tiresome. They will be as filled with the joy of the spirit as the humblest among them and all will be in harmony.

Our physical ailments will be relieved, but so will our ailments of the spirit.

I don't know if I believe those stories any more. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I don't see any harm in believing in them if it brings comfort in this world.

Again, I am amazed and touched by what you write. Blessings to you in your continual search.

Carole McDonnell said...

I agree with much of what you say. Yesterday I was watching a documentary on spree killers. Most of these folks were wounded and mocked as children. They had tons of anger and grief and rejection issues. I found myself crying for them and hoping their sins wouldn't put them in hell because they went off and murdered twenty people in their anger.

I know many Christians and many non-Christians would judge these folks and call them evil. I know many people would think I'm a wuss because I tend to like and suffer with these murderous people.

There will definitely be some people in heaven who we don't expect to find there. And yet there really is a hell. I had the bad luck to have glimpsed it and I described what I saw in my novel Wind Follower. God is both judge and savior. And God is so very very holy and good that no one but no one can reach him. If we compare ourselves to ourselves we can say "so and so was better than I am...or I am better than so and so." But to God even Mother Theresa's goodness doesn't amount to even the first step toward goodness. That goes for Buddha and Mohammed and all those other holy folks. We can only get into heaven by a kind of divine favortism: God lets you in because his son's blood paid the price. I truly believe that because what I saw of heaven was so holy and pure it made me think, "Oh my God, I don't deserve to be here!" God is that terrifying and holy.

I got a tiny tiny tiny glimpse of heaven when I was a child. And I saw a sweet and wonderful angel once. So to me they aren't really stories. And every night, every night, every night, every night, I think of hell and the people in it. It never leaves me. It never leaves me. It is a terrible terrible terrible place. No comfort at all to think of that.

And it is always a good thing to remind ourselves that in most of the religions of the world -- from time immemorial-- there has been a good afterlife place and a bad afterlife place. From the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to the Koran, to the Bible, to Hinduism to the Egyptian book of the dead to folklore stories of Valhalla or Greek mythology. There is a place or a state that is horrible and where people do not want to go. Whether they like the Chinese use hell money or the Catholics use indulgences and prayers or whatever...

The modern world wants to think those are all stories that arise from the universal human subconscious for some strange reason. But the modern world hardly believes in spirit -- living or after life.

So, if most of the world believes in a good place and a bad place to go after death, it means pretty much we all believe the same thing...the differences is in the details. But it's a common truth all folks except we arrogant modern humans all believe in. -C

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