Monday, September 21, 2009

"Saving Lives"

Blood pressure alert: This is bound to sound heretical to some folks, and generally push a bunch of buttons for a diverse array of reasons. I'm not expecting anyone to agree with me on anything, just sharing what my understanding is at present.

The longer I live in close company with the whole Community of Life at Pinwheel Farm, the more intimately I find my understanding of living intertwined with my understanding of birth and of death.

And the more I study the Bible, and listen to other Christians harangue other non-Christians (yes, I claim both categories; I believe God's understanding of me encompasses all of me at once--past, present and future--and though in some ways I've been following Christ since high school when I first started reading the New Testament, "officially" I've only been a baptized Christian for about 8 years.), the more I realize that I really don't "get" the whole thing about being with Jesus in Heaven, and life after death, and all that. It just doesn't grab me as anything that should be an immediate priority in my day-to-day life. It's all just unknowable. And pitiful fallible little mortal that I am, I don't feel I have a right to assume that I know the Mind of God when it comes to the Judgement Day. Maybe I'll be with Him, maybe not. Maybe some folks are right about my misdeeds of the past (and present, and future...); maybe other folks are right about God's mercy and forgiveness. I don't know who to believe, among people, so I'll put my faith in God...and be content that I can't be any more sure of my eternity that of tomorrow's weather.

For me, letting God do the worrying about eternity is a huge load lifted off my shoulders.

On the other hand, following Jesus...looking to him as a mentor and teacher and role model...trying to do what I think he would have done according to the stories we have of his life and ministry...THAT seems worth doing. And helping others by doing that, and helping others to do that themselves...THAT seems worth doing.

The more I see/hear media promotions about "Saving lives" through health care, pharmaceuticals, prevention, etc., the more that phrase just sounds like a bunch of nonsense. Doctors and nurses don't save lives. Firefighters and EMTs don't save lives. Seat belts don't save lives. Breast cancer screenings and Pap smears don't save lives. Because no one's life is going to be saved. Period. We are all going to die. Why not?

Then what happens? Some Christians tell me that Jesus saves, that if I confess Him as my personal savior then He will take me to heaven when I lay this body down for good, and I won't really die. Well, OK, whatever you say, but I don't really need to know.

I guess Heaven is just on that long, long, list of places I've never been and therefore really don't mind not being there. I'm too busy here in this little corner of God's Kingdom on Earth to worry about all the places I'm not, and might not ever be.

As I said, I'm content to leave my fate for God to let me know when the time comes. If He thinks I should roast like a marshmallow (mmm, crispy toasty brown black and a little charred glowing coals and flecks of ash on the outside, delicate crack stretch then ohsohot sweet gooey on the inside and maybe a rich piece of bittersweet dark chocolate and a graham cracker to lounge around on...), then it will be my Christian duty to try to do so without whining, because I imagine He will sternly and lovingly show me exactly what I could have done to have a different outcome, and it will all make perfect sense, and for my God I will do anything in my power, even burn in a hell I don't believe exists.

But right here, right now: As far as I can see, with my poor mortal "wisdom", life can only be prolonged. And it can be enriched. And those are worthy endeavors, when carried out in balance with an awareness that our lives are so intertwined with so many other lives, of all species, and what extends one live may shorten another...and how can we value one life relative to any other life? No life can be saved, yet one life arises from the passing of another life in endless circle, endless recycling of atoms and elements. If my protein returns to nitrogen and ends up incorporated in the wing of a monarch dangling from a foggy October tree branch in the chilly dawn, is that not enough of Heaven?

If, whether through my life's brokenness, through my stumbling in the twilight, through my quirky and incomplete grasp of scripture, through being a Bad Example and demonstrating What Not To Do...if somehow, I can offer comfort to others in life and help them have hope for God's mercy in death...if someone else gets to their Heaven through some aid of mine...that's is enough. Someone else can have my share of certain salvation. There are others who need it more than I, because they have less faith.

I expect to live in this body for a long time, and I enjoy it though it has its inconveniences. Yet if my life were cut short tomorrow, it would all be enough. I have given and been given comfort, I have had faith, I have forgiven and reconciled with most of those who have hurt me, whether they know it or not. I am at peace with my life...enough, at least. Maybe not with fleas but with everything else; is that enough? Well, except....

If God keeps me this well in this life, why would it be worse after this life? So in life or in death, God is with me. Nothing else matters. And nothing can take that away.

Yeah. That, and handful of lemon balm, will make you a nice hot cup of locally grown tea.

In my favorite translation (Witter Bynner) of the Tao Teh Ching, the first chapter ends

"If name be needed, Wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder, existence opens."

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