Sometimes deaths in communities come like waves. I am ready for the tide to turn. I have conducted too many funerals in too few days. The following is a story I love to share with families. I’m not sure where it originated. I got it from a minister who got it from a minister who got it from a minister.
Once there lived a colony of grubs at the bottom of a swamp. Ever so often a member of the community would feel the urge to swim to the surface of the water and then disappear, never to be seen again.
This confused and bewildered the others, and so one day they agreed that the next time one of them felt compelled to leave the colony, that one would return and share with the others what it was like above the surface of the water.
It wasn’t long before one felt the urge to depart. She swam to the surface and crawled out onto a lily pad and in the warmth of the sun went to sleep. As she slept the carapace of the little creature broke open, and out emerged this beautiful rainbow colored dragonfly.
She spread her wings and began to soar in the glory and brightness of this new world.
But thin a tinge of sadness came over her, for she remembered the promise she made to the others. She knew she could not go back to that place and they would not recognize her if she did.
But the sadness quickly dissipated when she realized that they too would make the journey, they too would experience the glory.
The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul—that in death the immortal soul departs from the body. The Hebrews believed in resurrection—that in death both soul and body die and by an act of God the total person is raised to new life.
The early Jewish Messianic Christians certainly followed the Jewish tradition. I get the impression that many Christians today are uncertain whether they believe in immortality or resurrection.
Almost all religious traditions seem to intuit some form of life after death.
By instinct we seem to know that this life is too sorrowful and hurtful to be the whole story. Too many lives are tragically cut short, or deeply devastated by circumstances over which they had no control. We spiritually intuit that there must be more to long for and expect. Even those of us who have many advantages in this life die with unfinished business and the realization that our lives are not complete.
So what will life after death, life in “heaven,” life in that bright new world look like, feel like, be like?
It’s hard to imagine.
I believe that life in that world will be a dynamic process of continued development and growth. No sitting around in mansions playing harps or basking in luxury.
Whatever the particulars, I feel confident there will be no end to our learning, exploring, risking, growing, working, playing, evolving—this is basic to our humanity.
Human reality at its best is one glorious adventure pervaded by grace and fueled by the need to share and spread the healing, transforming power of unconditional love.
A version of this blog appears on readwave.com
For those interested in learning about a progressive approach to Christian faith and spirituality check out my book: Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know it alls) http://nurturingfaith.info/?p=1297/ The questions at the end of each reflection make this a great resource for reading and study groups.