For me, the only thing worse than realizing that this life may be the only life I get, would be to find out that I squandered my only life living for a future that didn’t…really…. exist….all based on some other human’s (admittedly appealing) hopes, imaginations, or worse….fabrications.
The funny thing is….this realization doesn’t make me want to “eat, drink, and be merry” and live irresponsibly (though admittedly, I’ve always loved food).
Instead, this realization makes me want to live the most moral, authentic, and meaningful life I can with whatever time remains.
Call me crazy, but I’m as happy as I’ve ever been. Warts, scrapes, stumbles and all. Better yet – as hard as it is to let that appealing dream fade….I feel like my feet are more firmly planted on the ground than ever before. Right here. Right now.
I prefer to walk on solid ground than to fly in the clouds. I sleep better down here. And there are so many worthy people to love, and to be loved by….right in front of me. How can I waste a moment of this time pining for someone else’s speculation?
Has it been hard to make this transition? Excruciating at times. Have I hurt and disappointed people? Far too often.
Would I trade my current life for my pre-faith-crisis life?
Not for all the money in the world.
Give me the choice of a beautiful fantasy or a rugged reality….I’ll go with reality. Every. Time.
That’s what faith means to me now. It means living in the now…..as if this moment matters most. Heaven is now.
And yet….this philosophy ultimately seems like the best bet….because we KNOW we have this moment. Tomorrow…..who can really say for sure…other than those who are actually just trying to sell you something?
If it turns out that there really is a life after this one…….BONUS!!!!! But this way, I will not have wasted my one guaranteed life…. ignoring my own inner-voice and wants/needs…squandering my time living someone’ else’s vision for me….and most importantly….I will (hopefully) not not have squandered my time with my loved ones all around me.
(Musings after seeing “The Big Short” with my friend Roger. Go see it immediately…..along with “Spotlight“)
This was so well written. I felt like I as reading something that I would have written if I could write as well as you do. I think that is one of the reasons I had so much anger when I left the church. I felt like was tricked out of living a fulfilling life. I felt like I had wasted so much time and energy working on something that was worthless. It was like working for a degree for my whole life and realizing that 1. I would never get it and 2. that it would have been worth less than the paper on which it was printed. Since attending the Mormon Transitions retreat last fall, my anger has faded until I hardly notice it anymore. There are things that can trigger a reaction in me, but I feel so much happier.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about “Heaven”. I doubly appreciate it knowing how up and down the last couple of years have been in your life and the life of your family. I too have gone through an excommunication, after 30 very hard years of church service. The first couple of years following my newfound freedom from the frenetic, craziness of LDS activity were unsettling. We get so programmed to be so busy almost every night with the church, that we truly become activity addicted — a serious compulsion. We don’t know how to relax and enjoy people, situations and beauties around us. We come to distrust quiet times. We come to feel that our worth is diminished if we are not continually doing for someone else.
I think of countless ward dinners or other activities that I was involved in, which took months of planning. The day of the event, people would arrive, be very busy, slam down tables and chairs, slop the food on the table, eat, clean up and put everything away quickly, and go home. It was a duty. Most did not want to be there. Most did it to be supportive and fill an assignment. Rarely did you ever just have a relaxing moment to enjoy people. It was like people didn’t trust themselves to have empty time in life. It seemed that worth was tied to productivity or at least looking busy. I laugh at that saying, “look busy! Jesus is coming!” It always seemed like we were earning our Heavenly place by being busy.
I recently had a therapist ask me to peel away everything that I thought that my inner being is. Then he asked me’ “who are you?” I had a hard time answering with much substance. Yeah, I’m a good guy. I do much for many in my family and community. I try hard. But who am I?
Since losing a young son 4 years back, I have pondered much on heaven and what the spirit world is like. I have received many personal affirmations that are very personal and real. I’ve felt sustenance and healing. I too, can honestly say that I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. I am more spiritual now than I have ever been. I am not religious anymore, and free from the drama that is always going on among the religious folks who are still trying to reconcile dogma with reality. Sometimes it just doesn’t jive.
I feel that I now have a very peaceful belief in what heaven is and what our souls feel and look like there. I’ve read many near death experiences that point to similarities that can’t be ignored. One recent book that I can recommend is: Wayne Dryer’s – Memories of Heaven, children’s recollections of life in the spirit world. It gives hundreds of accounts that children have blurted out to parents about a memory of the pre-life. Very fascinating and chilling at times. I believe that this is a mere extension of the life after. In fact, some believe that we will have many lives until we reach a more perfected state. Who knows?
All I know is that each day is a new opportunity and a clean canvas. We can be realistic, live in the moment and be positive. OR we can chose negativity and the darker side of life. I’d rather be called a Pollyanna than dwell in negativity.
I’ve been fascinated over the years by religious people who are continually whining about a better life ahead. One family member feels that the world is an evil place and she, “can’t wait for the next life”. As I’ve thought about this, I’ve thought how tragic it is that people regard this existence as worldly, evil and difficult. It has it’s challenges, but the daily opportunities for wonder, amazement, learning, beauties, gratitudes are endless. I think it is a slap in the Creator’s face, when we are not grateful for opportunities we have here. Making the most of NOW!
Following my exit from religious practice, I had a lot of sorting out to do with who i really was and what I really believed. I now know that I have a high propensity to seek beauty in nature, to be grateful for small things, to care about service, to listen to an inner voice, to trust yourself, to continually try to tame anger and fears, to be more calm, to express more love and to value human relationships. I have realized that these are all part of me. Some may have come from earthly conditioning, but I feel my inner yearnings have always been with me. I own them. No religion owns them and they do not own me or control the blessings that my Maker wishes for me.
I am a gay man. Some of the recent announcements from my former religion have been troubling. Why do I care? I shouldn’t. Nonetheless, some wounds that I thought were healed years ago, were opened by this. Through some tears and yearnings with God, I have received a witness that I am worthy, worthwhile, and acceptable to God. The years of hurts and being treated poorly among the ‘faithful’ is behind me. I believe in a loving Christ and a loving God who is very personal and caring. I never abandoned my belief in these heavenly companions. Someday, my Christian brothers and sisters who are judgmental, will hopefully have a crossroads in their lives, where they feel the need for love and acceptance. My place is not to judge.
I have found that daily meditation and taking an inventory of gratitudes has been helpful. Wholeness is something I continually strive for. Finding meaning in life is what all people are seeking. While “Heaven” might be a trajectory, I believe it is not a place, but a state of being. What matters most is that we are enjoying the journey and blessing many along the way. We also need to give ourselves permission to stumble, and find humor in daily life. We are all vulnerable and human. At least for now!
Thank you again John. I wish you and Margi, and your family peace in your journey. I appreciate your friendship and the wonderful work you have done to help many.
Wonderful thanks for sharing. As a parent of a gay child it gives me hope that other LGBTQ people can find wholeness even after all the damage the church does.
thanks for your kind note. I know that the main topic John presented here was about the notion and reality of a place or ideal we call Heaven. My intent was not to slap another LGBT bumper sticker on yet another topic or in yet another forum. In fact, I’m guessing that many people are tired of the dialogue that has been going on now for at least 2 years on this subject. It seems to permeate the conversation everywhere. I’m guessing people are tiring of it. I am as a gay person. i am embarrassed sometimes when I’m invited to a dinner party of 8 and you’re the only gay person there — not because I’m ashamed of who I am. Rather, it becomes the larger conversation of the evening, prompted by non gay people. I’d rather hear about their lives or their interests or ideas. If I can ever be of further help to you or your family, I’d be happy to. Best wishes to you and your son. He has a bright future ahead in today’s world.
The past 3 years since I realized the truth claims of the church were false have been the hardest of my life. It’s as if the ground fissured beneath my feet. At the same time, I share your feeling that I would never return to my former perspective. My extended family relationships may be harder, my day-to-day decision making may require more analysis than most adults would require, but life finally fits and makes sense to me. As big as the challenge may be, I am free to explore a new world, one that need not be trimmed and stretched and distorted to fit the Mormon mold. I live far less for the future and focus more on the now. As unsettling as my still-believing Mormon family thinks this uncertainty should make me, I find myself rather comforted to live in the realm of “I don’t know.” It’s fresh air to the stagnation of Mormon certainty.