I have no fear of what comes next
The reason I write this is not to say “look at me” but to answer some comments about the uselessness of Christianity, that it is all ‘pie in the sky when you die’ and of no earthly use.
For some people religion is something inherited, something handed down from a previous generation. Children are told they are ‘Christian’, ‘C of E’ or possibly ‘Catholic’. For me religion is not a baton that is picked up and passed on to my children, neither is it an academic head trip in order to indulge my fantasies. It is an interpretation and making sense of what has happened to me along the years.
Over those years many things happened that required a religious or spiritual explanation. There was not simply a single experience but several that built up and eventually persuaded me to think of ordination. There was a kind of looking at the world with that something plus that most people had no experience of. And it changed me. For example, when I was in my late teens or early twenties – I cannot remember when exactly – I was single and sleeping at my parents’ house one night. Suddenly I was wide awake for someone was in my room standing near the foot of the bed!
You can imagine how the heart races, a cry comes unbidden to the throat, and muscles tense in readiness for fight or flight. Well that certainly was the case for me that night. It was instinctive and awesomely frightening. I froze.
Then starts the inexplicable, for in my terror, despite no obvious lip movement or change of expression of this intruder, I ‘heard’ the words, “Do not be afraid. Come with me”.
My terror did subside when I realised that the person was female, and ‘beautiful’. I put that word ‘beautiful’ in inverted commas for it was an unearthly beauty, or a beauty beyond the things of my experience up to that moment. She was PURE. She was beyond sexual in the normal sense of the word, for she was someone who I could not possible think of in that sort of way, despite my testosterone charged young age. She was untouchable.
And then we were somewhere else.
One second I was still lying in my bed wondering what the heck was going on, the next second we were in another place.
And then? Well the next thing I can recall is that I was back in my bedroom, lying in my bed, as if nothing had happened in the meanwhile.
Then she smiled, nodded, and disappeared. She simply vanished before my eyes.
I laid awake for hours trying to make sense of what had just happened, and afraid of what others might think of me. I decided not to tell anyone else, especially my family, but keep it to myself and ponder upon the implications of it all. The nearest I could come to describing it all was to say she was ‘angelic’ and the place we went was ‘heavenly’. I do not have the mental capacity or concepts to even begin to describe that place. It is totally beyond my ability.
Needless to say I was buzzing and on a high. I do not know if anyone noticed or commented to other family members, but that feeling of exceptional privilege stayed with me for days and days. It affected me at some deep level, leaving me wondering why I was the one who had experienced it. It opened my eyes to the relevance of spiritual experience. It was something that changed my direction in life, made me think again about any career, and eventually brought me to the point of acceptance that the pursuit of money for personal gain was not the way for me. I felt honoured and humbled by it all. It, along with other similar experiences, led me inexorably to offer myself for ordination.
Subsequent to all of this I came upon a line of scripture from St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Let me write it out for you:-
2 Corinthians chapter 12
Paul’s Visions and Revelations
1. It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.
I cannot help but say – YES. That is why I have no fear of what comes next to this earthly life but it’s what helps me look to this life and what I am doing within it.