“Do you believe in heaven?” That’s what a friend asked me in a crowded bar over the holiday weekend. Her words are still ringing in my ears and my mind. I immediately responded yes to the question that’s always been true for me. What’s changed over the years however, is my interpretation of heaven, and what it means to my life, and others who share the planet with me.
It was my Godmother who taught me to recite the 23rd Psalm before I started kindergarten. She laughed when I asked her who Shirley was, as in ‘Shirley goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.’ Back then heaven was literally paved with streets of gold. It was where I prayed “The Lord my soul to take, if I should die before I wake.” Of course, I was older before I had any understanding of death.
For most of my early life, even young adulthood, heaven was a bit of a mystery. I knew I wanted to go there, I just wasn’t in any hurry about the trip. There was a radical change in my perception of heaven by the time I reached my late 20’s. That’s the time I joined a religion that taught heaven was a place for God, angels, and only a few humans who would rule over a paradise earth. I left that religion and it’s teachings behind a few years ago. Now, without the dogma of a rigid belief system I find myself without any certain answers when it comes to heaven.
Maybe it is the final reward for a life well lived as preached from the pulpits of many Christian churches. Or perhaps as some believe it’s kind of a transfer station as we move from one reincarnation to the next. Others say there are different levels in heaven set aside for individuals based on their ranks on earth. I just don’t know.
The sacred writings of various religions provide satisfying answers for many believers. That’s got to be a good thing. I see no harm in beliefs that bring peace, comfort, and stability into our lives, and our world. Personally, I no longer promote one religion over another. I find myself growing more comfortable and at peace with life’s uncertainties.
I pray there is room in heavens realm for more than one group of worshipers. And, I sincerely hope we don’t have to have all the answers before we can gain admittance.
I am fairly certain of one thing. If we each live according to divine rules anchored in love, compassion and peace our lives together on earth might be truly heavenly.