Not to be morbid, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death. (Yes, it’s very hot and dry right now in central Texas, but I’m not finding skeletal remains in the front yard – yet – so my ruminations about death cannot be connected to the weather.)
I’m reading a book, and it asks the question: “What is your greatest fear?” Not surprisingly, death ranks as the second greatest fear for most people; speaking in public snares the Number One spot on the list, according to the author.
(Not for me – I love speaking in public. From the first time I gave a humorous reading at a ladies’ luncheon when I was in high school, I’ve been addicted to making people laugh; getting chuckles from an audience gives me a rush of power that is second only to successfully parking parallel.)
Fascination with life after death
When I try to pin down my greatest fear, though, it’s not death, either. Call me a fatalist, but I have always believed that when my number is up…well, it’s up. I’ve never doubted that I’m going to heaven to be with God, and I know it’s going to be wonder-full. So why would I fear death?
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, I’m not alone. In their study, 72% of Americans believe in an afterlife, and that number includes ‘non-religious’ respondents, among whom 37% say they believe in the existence of heaven, a place where they are rewarded for living a good life. Interest in an afterlife has also fueled phenomenal sales for books and memoirs about near-death or after-death experiences and led to popular TV series and scientific research projects. My own conversations with my sons about my Christian faith and the intersections of science with the supernatural/spiritual was the seed that eventually resulted in my thriller Heaven’s Gate (which, by the way, has now been nominated for a 2017 Christy Award in the suspense category! Have you read it yet?).
Where are all the do-gooders hiding?
So, here’s my question: Given all the attention that heaven receives in our culture and a wide-spread profession of believing in it, why aren’t more people making a concerted effort to get there? In other words, if you believe heaven is a reward for doing good, why aren’t more people actively seeking to do good?
I think the answer, in part, is because ‘doing good’ doesn’t make sensational headlines. ‘Doing good’ is often a quiet, secret thing. Contributing to a community in positive ways is such a way-of-life for so many people, that they don’t consider it anything special, when in fact, it really is. I know that when I consciously look for good, I see it happening everywhere, so, whether or not the media reports it or our culture celebrates it, I think there are tons of people doing good because they believe in heaven. Like I do. And when I let the reality of heaven influence my daily behavior, I act differently. I work at being more generous, kinder, more grateful.
So why would I fear death? In my mind, in my heart, I believe that death will be the door to the Kingdom made perfect that I will inhabit forever. My audiences will always laugh. My parallel parking will be effortless. What’s not to like?
Do you believe, every day, in heaven?