Today, as I was minding my own business eating my lunch, a woman I had never met before lent over the next table to ask me:
“If it is not too personal a question, what happens to us when we die?”
I replied that, as I have not yet done so, I don’t know.
We talked *. The woman went on. She had been told that heaven was a place of goodness and love, and her concern was:
“What if goodness and love are not enough? I’m worried that I will be bored!”
On the one hand, I wonder why we should consider goodness and love boring; why we have portrayed them as such and bought-into that portrayal!?
But on the other hand, I think she is on to something. That is why, for me, “God loves you” is a true but inadequate gospel, or, good news. It is why I want to talk also of purpose, and what makes us come alive; of vocation, and physical embodiment; of skill, and pleasure; of boundaries and limitations, and mystery that is encountered both within and beyond them...
* Hebrews 11:1 describes faith in this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Regarding the question asked of me, I went on to reply, I have faith in a physical resurrection, on earth; with my body and the earth itself (both of which suffer from decay and will, ultimately, die) made new. That is my hope, revealed in scripture and confessed in the historic creeds of the Church.
Beyond that, I’m agnostic about details, or timing, or temporary states; which I think is the most honest position, given that the Bible, as a record of human faith, holds out paradoxically several different understandings of post-mortem experience. I have faith that my life, both before and beyond death, is held and kept within the love and purposes of God; and that is enough.
And I’m happy to share further the grounds of that faith—it has to do with Jesus—but that goes beyond the question I was asked.