The Process of Life
I see life as a continuous learning process. I learn how to live in the process of living. The learning is lifelong and continues until the end. There is something unknown waiting to be discovered until the journey is complete. And so the journey of life is like a Who-Done-it? There is an unfolding mystery that is only fully revealed on the last page. Life is full of mystery until the very end.
Life is a natural process that happens all by itself. The process can be trusted; it knows what it is about. The process teaches us how life is to be lived. It is a cyclic process revealed in the cycles in nature; life ebbs and flows. The dying of the old and the rising of the new are phases in a cycle of life. Life is continually being renewed. The ups and downs, highs and lows we experience in life are part of the natural flow of life.
Life after Death
Philomena and I have been part of one another’s lives since the age of two. We have lived through heaven and hell together many times over the years. Our lives are like two strands woven together into one thread over a lifetime. When I go the thread will end. Philomena will need to grieve, then move on; begin a new life as a single strand. That is life after death. Concern for life after death is concern for the life that continues here on earth after I have gone. Initially it is concern for the future lives of those most affected by my going. Ultimately it is concern for the future of that whole delicate web of life here on earth of which human life is just one strand.
Help and Helplessness
When I worked as a counsellor every client came with different needs. Sometimes a client would come who was facing overwhelming adversity in life. They had reached the very limit of what they could bear. They could not go on any longer. As I sat listening to their story I would feel increasingly helpless to help. When I felt utterly helpless, something would shift. Help came. Helpful words came to me.
My disease is making me increasingly helpless. When I face the final helplessness of death, will help come to me? Have I got that much faith?
My life is not my life, it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to God. It came from God in the beginning, and it returns to God in the end. It was freely given to me in the beginning. I did not earn it and I do not deserve it. I can accept it, but I have no right to keep it. I cannot possess it: it is not my possession. It belongs to God and to God it must return. The same is true of everything. None of my possessions belong to me; they belong to God and must return to God in the end. In reality I have no possessions, not even a soul. This is good news because it means I have nothing to lose, not even a soul.
Good People and Bad People
It has become clear to me that God has no favourites. In the imagery of Jesus, the Father loves all his
children equally. The father loves bad children just as much as good children. And so whether I am good or
bad makes no difference to the father’s love for me. I can never lose it. That love is the unwavering
constant in an ever changing universe.
When I was a child I believed that I had an immortal soul and that my main purpose in this life was to save
my soul in the next. This life is brief, the next life is eternal. So what happens in the next life is all important.
It was clear that in this life bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. This
was clearly unfair. So a just God would put things right in the next life. In the next life good things will
happen to good people, and bad things will happen to bad people. The good will go to their eternal reward
in heaven and the bad will go to their eternal punishment in hell. The fear of losing my soul in the next life;
the fear of eternal punishment, was powerful motivation for good behaviour in this life. Without that fear
there would be no motivation for good behaviour in this life. Anarchy would rule.
I no longer believe that I have an immortal soul, so I have nothing to lose. The fear of losing my soul has lost
its power over me. The fear of eternal punishment in hell has lost its power over me. When I sense God’s
love for me deep within my heart, a love I can never lose, then I lose all fear. I no longer fear losing my soul.
I have already lost my soul – in God.
Richard Dawkins is fond of the quotation: “good people do good things, and bad people do bad things; but
for good people to do bad things, it takes religion”. I disagree. It does not need religion. We humans are a
mixture of light and dark. We all have a dark side. Religious people have a dark side; the Holy Father has a
dark side. Even Richard Dawkins has a dark side. And good people have a dark side. We ignore the dark
side at our peril. If I can see and accept my dark side, it becomes a powerful ally. If I am blind to my own
dark side, or reject it, then it appears to be outside me. It appears to be in other people. I see bad people. I
do bad things to them because they are bad and deserve to be punished. That is what makes good people
do bad things. They don’t know what they are doing. They think they are punishing bad people, but they
are really punishing their own dark side. But Jesus tells us to love our enemies, our dark sides. Then they
become our friends and allies.
From Hierarchy to Communion
When people are afraid, they instinctively form themselves into a hierarchy, both individually and
communally. The body behaves like an extension of the head; everyone obeys the orders of the leader. If
the fear persists, the hierarchy becomes stronger and turns into a tyranny of fear. Fear is an unpleasant
sinking sensation in the gut. Individually I desensitize my gut feeling by going into my head. I look down on
my body from inside my head. I stop listening to my gut feelings. Hierarchy is a sign of fear; communion is a
sign of love. In the kingdom there is no hierarchy because the kingdom is a communion of equals. We are
all children of the same father, and our humble father lowers himself to be equal with us.
Heaven and Hell
It was a sunny afternoon in May. Philomena and I were sitting together on a bench in the shade of two
twisted oaks gazing out over the estuary of the Beaulieu River in Hampshire. In the foreground were green
reeds. Beyond them lay the mud flats riven by channels dug by the receding tide. Beyond was the silver
ribbon of the river on which leisure boats plied slowly up and down. On the far bank was the woodland of
the Beaulieu estate with the riverside walk from Beaulieu to Bucklers Hard. To the left in the distance the tip
of the Needles off the Isle of Wight were just visible. Gazing on that tranquil scene in the company of
someone I loved I thought if heaven were like this it would be good enough for me; I could happily stay here
forever. I was glimpsing heaven on earth.
Sometimes life has been like heaven; sometimes life has been like hell. Life often seems like hell on earth
now. When life is hell on earth, where is heaven? (Where was God in Auschwitz?) That is my challenge
today. Jesus tells me to look within. Heaven is within me. If I gaze into the depths of my own heart long
enough for my eyes to adapt accustomed to the dark, I catch glimpses of an answer; I catch glimpses of a
light, like a star shining in the inner darkness. The mystics tell me that this light is in everyone, and if we
gathered them all together they would blaze like the face of the sun. The way to the light passes through
the dark; the way to heaven passes through hell. And so Jesus had to suffer to show us the way to heaven,
because the way to heaven passes through hell. And Jesus teaches by example.
The inner darkness is where I hide my darkest secrets. This is the inner hell where I confront my inner
demons. Carl Jung says my worst enemy is within me, and Jesus tells me to love my enemies. To reach the
heaven within I have to befriend my inner demons. When I befriend my inner demons I love myself as God
loves me - completely.