We all have thoughts and wonderings, especially when we have a close-call accident, or a friend or family member dies, or we simply begin to notice that the unimaginable has happened – we are growing older ourselves.
We begin to think and wonder about what happens next, when this life ends. We know it will end someday, but we almost never think about it. If a thought comes up, we quickly put that away. It is unsettling or even depressing to confront the idea of our life ever ceasing to be.
Though the world today may seem to be populated with millions who do not value life, their own or anyone else’s, most of us tend to hold onto life tenaciously. This life is all we know, and consciously all we have ever known, and so we tend to assume that it is what we are, and who we are, and when this life ends that will be the end of us. Or so we assume. I have reason to believe that is not true, and far from it.
Your soul is much bigger than a mortal life.
In the Bible Jesus promised every one of us eternal life. I think the mistake we’ve made in the past was to interpret this as meaning we will have eternal life, someday, somewhere else, if we're good. But in fact the truth is, it’s not optional or conditional; we do have it already, and the life we're living now is only a part of it.
I don’t have the answers to the question of immortal life, any more than you do, but what I am just beginning to understand, I’m willing to share with you.
Only recently I’ve learned that most of the world’s religions including Christianity believe in reincarnation, though most do not emphasize it in their formal doctrines. Perhaps they feel we will waste this life if we know we have more to come. My own feelings about life after life have been mixed. Most of my life I didn’t feel the need to decide if it was true or not; I had my whole young life ahead of me and I saw no reason to think about such things – until I had a serious health challenge. Then the question quickly became “up close and personal.”
The challenge was serious. My medical condition was uncertain, but I knew it could possibly end my life much sooner than I had ever expected. I was stunned at the news. I was not brave and courageous; the first emotions I felt were shock and terror. Then I was engulfed with feelings of regret for all I had not done in my life that I still wanted to do. I was staggering under the weight of the mystery of death and the shocking prospect that it could be soon.
At work I went onto auto-pilot. At times I actually even forgot about it for a while. Every time the thoughts and fears came back, I pushed them away again and focused on my work. That way I got through the days. But when I came home to the peace and stillness of the evenings, with no distractions, the reality powerfully returned. I prayed a lot and cried a lot as the days of treatment and uncertainty dragged on. I knew only one thing: I didn’t want to go. Through my terrible cloud of sadness I said to God, “Nobody should ever have to die.” As simply as that, and said it with my whole heart.
From my window I could see outside the glittering leaves of my familiar oak tree, and I noticed that every leaf was outlined in gold-edge, and it was moving, alive, and beautiful. This was the same oak tree I've seen from the window for many years. It had always looked like this, but I had never seen it so clearly before, or loved it so very much. There was a calm crystal-blue sky, the little sounds of birds busy with their affairs, coming and going, and the gentle stirring of the curtains at the open window, floating on the early-autumn breeze. All of this I would be leaving, and only now did I see it as beautiful as it had always been, but I had never really looked. All of it now I saw as if a framed masterwork of art. Calm soundless tears flooded my face and my heart ached with a physical pain so deep and so vast that I cannot even express it. “I love it here” I heard my own voice say into the silence “I don’t want to go.”
In that moment I came to a realization so profound that I doubt I would ever have come to it any other way than this. In my heart and mind I was standing at the crossroads of life and death, and I heard myself say to God “I want to live forever.”
The biggest and the most amazing truth I have learned from New Thought and from the experiences of my life is not really a new one at all; it’s one of the oldest truths. It’s the one Jesus told us very clearly and simply. It was true then and is, if anything, even truer now: Whatever we ask of God believing, we receive. Unconditionally. (If you want it, ask for it and completely trust God to provide it. Then whatever it is, God will deliver.) But you have to believe it. That’s the hard part. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
We are "only human." We love our technology and science and statistics and facts. But facts are not the same as truths, and that is important to remember.
As you have already guessed, I didn’t die. I am completely well. I had to change the way I looked at everything in my life, and all my “problems” and challenges. Throughout that fearful time I was advised again and again by my inner Counselor, to refuse the fear and to know that God was healing me just as I had asked, and to believe in that. Believing – that was my part, that was my work. And it was hard work, I assure you. The most natural thing was to be afraid, and the terrifying fears came back thousands of times. But once I knew that fear was the ultimate enemy of health, I knew what I had to do. I knew that my own fear was the real battleground.
Our thoughts and feelings of anger, fear, resentment, self-pity, and the belief in helplessness: these are the creators of illness and failure in life’s experiences. We create them ourselves. I say this again, even as I have learned and shared with you so many times before: Do not give them harbor in your heart or in your mind, not even for a little while. What you hold in your heart and the thoughts you hold in your mind create the life you have and will have. That is the “little picture” of life on earth. That is how it works. In this way, whether we're aware or not, we will live a human life and die a human death. But that's not all there is.
There is also a bigger picture too, a broader truth. The lifetime we are presently living is temporary, like a job, or a vacation, or a college education. There was something before it and there will be something after it. For a human life, so complex, confusing, inspiring, painful, joyful, terrible, and beautiful with all those experiences and learnings, to just simply end and go nowhere would absolutely make no sense. There would be no reason to come here if there were no place further to go.
Most of the world’s religions believe in a “heaven” and some form of “eternal life” after this one on earth. The New Thought Faiths were the first to bring into contemporary common consciousness the idea that this eternal life may not be something that happens in some other place (some "heaven") after we die. Instead, it really is literally as Jesus said: “The Kingdom of God is within.” Eternal life is something that was happening with us before, and will continue happening with us after, this lifetime.
I believe there is one thing God asks of us, and it's something my heart finally knows, told to me by my own soul and from God: That there are unique gifts entrusted to each of us this lifetime, and if they are not passed on before we leave it, they will not be given. We will not have done what, knowingly or unknowingly, we came here to do. When I was facing the prospect of my own human death, my sorrow was even greater than my fear, because I knew I had hardly begun my work here. I was putting it off until I could be more ready, until I could feel more worthy...
There is no Do-Over. This lifetime will never come again. God makes us what we need to be, and gives us what we want to have, and who we are and what we have, no matter what it is, is good enough to share.
Everyone is given certain gifts; we may not even know what they are, but they are an intrinsic part of us that our life expresses whether we are aware of it or not. You as this person in this lifetime are the only one. Therefore your life is important and sacred.
There is a growing inner experience in all of us, not just the spiritual leaders, but every “ordinary” one of us, each unique in all of creation. The secret is revealed and no longer hidden, that we have choices that create our lives and experiences, and that our soul may choose many lifetimes in which to learn, to grow, to make new choices, to create, to give, and to bless. This mortal physical life is an experience your soul is having, and there are other experiences it can have which we cannot yet imagine.
Because we are here now, we tend to assume that this life is “all there is” or at least the main part of it. In truth the human experience of this lifetime is only one part of it. There are other, unknown and unanswered parts of it that are simply beyond our capacity to comprehend right here and now. Yes, this lifetime is finite. But Life itself is eternal. There will always be more of it than we can understand with a human mind. There will always be some things we must trust God for, even when, and perhaps especially when, they seem impossible.
Reading pre-Columbian history, you will find that people in those days really believed that the earth was flat. And they absolutely believed and feared that if anyone sailed out too far, their ship would fall over the edge of the earth and they would be lost forever. This seems silly now, because we know more about how the planet Earth works. Yet it kept people from venturing out very far, and discovering what lay beyond the visible horizon, for centuries.
Humanity has continued to venture. It is inevitable that we will. We are becoming aware of the deeper level of existence that is beyond the physical, is much greater than it, and yet lives within it. In growing numbers we are beginning to discover and comprehend what lies beyond the physical horizon. Our hearts, our minds, and our eyes are opening, and one day like the natural rising of the light of another dawn, we will see.