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Believing In Life After Death




Imaginable or not, that is what our faith asks us to do. To be a Christian, especially as regards belief in life after death, is precisely to open our imaginations to the unimaginable, our minds to the non-conceptual, and our hearts to the holy. Imagine that you could talk to a baby in the womb before it was born. Having never seen the light of this world, knowing only the confines and securities of the womb, the baby would, I suspect, be pretty skeptical about your story of the existence of a world beyond the womb. You would be hard pushed to convince it to believe both that outside of its mother's womb there exists a world infinitely larger than what it is presently experiencing and that it is to its advantage to eventually be born into that immense world. On the basis of its experience, the baby simply would lack the tools to imagine the world that you are talking about. Unable to picture the world you are describing, it would have difficulty in believing in it and letting go of the world it knows, the womb, to want to be born. If a baby in the womb were conscious, it would have to make a real act of faith to believe in life after birth. It would fear birth as much as most of us fear death.

When we fear death we are, in terms of the bigger picture given us by faith, precisely babies in the womb fearing birth. This world, for all its immensity and for all it offers, is simply another womb, bigger, to be sure, than our mother's womb, but ultimately rather small and constricting in terms of full and eternal life. And, like babies in the womb, it is virtually impossible for us to imagine life beyond our present experience. Thus, we cling to what we know, to what gives us life, the umbilical cord, and fear anything and everything that might loosen our grip on that. We fear life after death in the same way as a baby fears life after birth.

But life after birth has the identical dynamics of life in the womb. We are still being gestated, save that now we call it aging, and inevitable is the day when a new pelvic thrust, death, will awaken,in deep inchoate recesses of our minds and bodies, the memory of just such a push many years earlier. Again, as years earlier, a glaring passage of light will promise a new world and, again, we will not have much say in the matter of birth. We will have to trust that being born is what is best for us.

To my mind, there are few things as helpful in understanding death as is the analogy of birth...except that it is, in the end, not an analogy. Death, seen through the eyes of faith, is not like a birth, it is a birth. We are initially born from our mothers' wombs into a very large world, one which, for quite a period of time, leaves us literally speechless. However, this seemingly immense world is ultimately just another womb within which we are again being gestated and readied for birth into a yet larger world which, I suspect, will in its magnitude and beauty, stun us into a new speechlessness. Moreover, just as initially we had to first be born before we could see our mothers, even though they were carrying us in their wombs, so now we must first die, be born again, before we can see our true mother, God. Then too, after this second birth, just as after the first, we will be open-mouthed and awestruck before a beauty, magnitude, and love that we could not have hoped to ever imagine. Birth and death require the same act of faith, the trust that a fuller life and a more meaningful contact with the mother awaits us beyond this present womb.