Thursday, February 17, 2011


On Sunday night we are having a little get together that our church calls a fireside (even though there is never any fire but whatever) where the youth and the youth leaders will learn/discuss a topic. We have these every other month or so. This month is on the afterlife.
I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I've realized that I don't really know if I believe in heaven and an afterlife. I'd like to, but I just don't know. So many people have such a surety of our existence after this life. I am not one of them. I find that I think of heaven more as a place that can give my mind rest, a place where I don't have to worry about the person who has passed away. And I seldom think about it until someone dies. And then I wrestle with the idea all over again.
And everyone has a different idea of what its like and who gets to go and what we do there when we're there. The baptists believe that we will see our family there but we won't know them as our family because we will all be family and it will be a type of paradise and we will busy ourselves by worshiping God, and that will make us happy. Mormons believe that you will still be married in the afterlife and have your family and that there are different levels of heaven and you go to the one that corresponds with your level of relationship with God and that we will busy ourselves by worshiping God through honoring Him through emulation. And don't even get me started on Hindu and Buddhist or especially Muslim beliefs of heaven. Suffice it to say, they all have very different interpretations.
I think it all sounds strange. People think that one interpretation sounds weird or the other, but the truth is - any type of understanding of heaven different than the one you grew up with and are familiar with probably sounds weird.
Anyway, we asked the youth to write down questions they have about the afterlife. You'd be amazed at the type of questions they have for being only 12 - 18 years old. These are deep and profound questions and ones that I, the supposed learned adult, still have. And while I hope that they find answers for themselves, there is a large part of me that wants to say to the authority we have coming to speak to us on the topic, "How do you know?" And maybe he will have an answer about faith or a sure faith that he understands to be knowledge, and maybe that works for him...
But I still don't know. And I fear that experience that would bring me to a faith in heaven. So for now, I'll just continue with my surface level faith of heaven and hope to learn from those who believe.
Do you believe in heaven? and if so, why?


Nat said...

I don't pretend to understand heaven, and I'm still a little confused as to what exactly I think goes on there (for example, I would love for heaven to be a place where I could eat yummy treats to my heart's content without any physical ramification, yet I worry that we'll all be too busy running around doing the Lord's work to sit down and enjoy a nice piece of flan. But surely the Lord wants us to be happy and enjoy some luxuries in heaven. . .so perhaps the answer is that once we get to heaven we just simply won't care about flan anymore??? Like I said, I'm confused)

Also, it seems like growing up in the church you're taught that heaven is this "happily ever after" which to me meant everything would be perfect once I stuck through the trials of life. But, do I really think that once I get to heaven my marriage is all of a sudden going to be "perfect" just because we got married in the temple, went to church, did all the right things? No. . .but maybe we'd be able to more clearly see the purpose in everything and that makes any trials seem trivial, which would make our relationships seem more perfect? Again, I don't know.

I've pretty much reconciled myself to the fact that I just can't think about it too much and we'll see what it's like when I get there. In the short term, I have to say that I definitely DO believe in a heaven of some sort, if only because I can't imagine why on earth life is worth it if there's not a heaven. If I really thought there was no heaven I would kill myself tomorrow because honestly I don't know that the trials in life are worth the good times, if these mortal years are all we ever have. And I think that evolution would have found a way to fix that (if there's no heaven) - either give us perfectly happy earth years or shorten our life spans so much that it doesn't matter if we're happy or not, just so long as we reproduce and keep the world going. Evolution wouldn't give us the emotional capacity to be able to have the relationships that we do if they end up being meaningless. When someone close to me dies the only way I can bear it is by the thought that I will see them again. So I guess the idea of heaven is what gives me hope. . .hope that if I can just stick it out for another 50 years then I will have an eternity of "happiness" even if it's not "perfect-ness."

Elizabeth said...

I don't know about heaven either, Jo. I wish I felt more certain but the older I get the more questions I have. I certainly don't believe mortal life is meaningless, in fact I believe much the opposite. The ups and downs of my life are rich and meaningful and fill my soul. I am thankful for every day I have on earth with my loved ones and I don't take a minute of it for granted, even the days of pain or frustrations or tears. And perhaps this is especially true due to my uncertainty of the afterlife- if it exists and what it will be like. I can't know about that until it happens, but I do know that life on earth is sweet and precious and I am so thankful to God for what I have been given.