Who we are, and what we do, matters in this life. This is at the heart of what our pastor has been speaking about in his series on death and the resurrection. Our actions here are connected to what comes later. This is not meant to frighten us into being good, for it should in fact have the opposite effect. Our actions do not determine or define us. If we all relied on ourselves to somehow "get it right" when it comes to faith and good deeds, we would all be sunk.
There is no way that any of us can know for sure what is right and what is not. We have God to rely on to be our moral compass. That brings a lot of comfort and relief to me, as I used to waste inordinate amounts of both time and energy worrying about the idea that I might be on a wrong track, and that the door to heaven might be closed to me.
I've opened my mind now to believe that God doesn't work that way. The "in" or "out" concept in Christianity always bothered me, and I still don't know exactly how it all works, but I know that God is love, and that he is all about forgiveness and grace and new beginnings, so I think I've been barking up the wrong tree for most of my life when it comes to fearing his judgement and being cast out for some insignificant detail.
It feels great not to worry so much about what might happen in the future, and instead pour my energy into this life, right here and now, because I know how to taste and touch and feel my way through this human experience. I can relate to what it means to be alive, and I have to believe that it's a continuous process; that life here carries on in some way beyond death. My choices matter, as does whether I'm kind more often than I'm mean, and I'm investing in the real now instead of the pretend, and I have to hope that choice will mean something beyond the confines of this life.
Jesus died and rose from the dead to give us hope. The resurrection took all of his disciples by surprise. To them, dead was dead, and to see him rise from the dead and walk among them was shocking to the extreme. I am learning that this hope of new life extends to me as well, both here on earth but also for whatever may come next. I always hated the idea that heaven meant losing who I am and simply becoming a floating spirit, praising God for all of eternity. I didn't want to lose myself, or my identifying markers, and I'm believing now that I won't.
What we invest in here on earth has a lasting value, or at least I hope it does. That idea lends more gravity to my experience, and it gives me a chance to consider carefully how I live, and lends a longer shadow to the cause and effect of each decision I make. I don't feel as afraid of death anymore, when I consider the concept that this life and the next are connected, and that who I am now matters to the person I will remain.
I don't need to know all of the hows and whys any longer. I know Jesus, and I believe in his forgiveness and love, and if I bank on it in this life, it will have to be enough to sustain me for what might come after. No matter what it is, I'll be in his care, and I hope to remain fully myself, with all of my strengths and weaknesses. I want to build who I am in this life, and have it matter in the next one, and I love the idea that this is possible.