What if we looked at death, not as the end, but as something new, something better.
One of the challenges that we face in achieving this perspective is our foundation. We do not fully trust, despite the many, many promises of great spiritual minds and leaders providing centuries of messages that God has delivered in different ways and forms.
Another obstacle is our starting point. Do you begin with Genesis chapter 1, wheree we are told that we are made in the image and likeness of God (verse 16), or do you begin with “original sin” in chapter 3?
You can read an excellent reflection by Richard Rohr on this distinction here.
I believe that heaven, the after life, whatever is next, is not limited to something punitive. It is not a reward and punishment affair.
If we start with how we were made, and why we were made, we begin to grasp just a glimpse of what is God’s unconditional love for us.
As a father, there is nothing my daughter can do that would keep me from loving her, and at the end of the day, wanting her near me is my desire (even if that means having her little feet kicking me in the face all night).
Does God not have the same love and desire for us? Does God not look at us as a parent looks at their child? I am simply mirroring the love of God, as my daughter mirrors that love in return.
If we begin out of a place of love and not punishment, everything changes. Our life purpose changes.
We no longer feel the guilt of sin, rather we learn from our mistakes. We see the prodigal son’s father running toward us (Luke 15:20) and we see the Shepard searching for us, finding us, and lifting us over his shoulders (Matthew 18:12-14).
Death changes too.
“If a single grain dies, it will bear much fruit,” Jesus says in John 12:24. This makes sense when we operate out of love. Our death is not the end, simply the beginning of what is waiting for us.
There is no need to fear death or fear life. Live it, appreciative every moment, search for those glimpses of God, and remember that you and I are “wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).”
With this as our starting point, and with God not only at our side, but within us and guiding us, we can say with confidence the words that conclude Psalm 23:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord