tasting life twice;
in the moment and in retrospection
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Heaven begun on earth
I've been reading L.M. Montgomery's Anne of the Island (beautiful book) and I came across something very thought-provoking...
"I'm afraid to die"
"Why should you be afraid, Ruby?" asked Anne quietly.
"Because -- because -- oh, I'm not afraid but that I'll go to heaven, Anne. I'm a church member. But -- it'll be all so different. I think -- and think -- and I get so frightened -- and -- and -- homesick. Heaven must be very beautiful, of course, the Bible says so -- but Anne, it won't be what I've been used to."
Heaven could not be what Ruby had been used to. There had been nothing in her gay, frivolous life, her shallow ideals and aspirations, to fit her for that great change, or make the life to come seem to her anything but alien and unreal and undesirable. Anne wondered helplessly what she could say that would help her. Could she say anything? "I think, Ruby," she began hesitatingly -- for it was difficult for Anne to speak to any one of the deepest thoughts of her heart, or the new ideas that had vaguely begun to shape themselves in her mind, concerning the great mysteries of life here and hereafter, superseding her old childish conceptions, and it was hardest of all to speak of them to such as Ruby -- "I think, perhaps, we have very mistake ideas about heaven -- what it is and what it holds for us. I don't think it can be so very different from life here as most people seem to think. I believe we'll just go on living, a good deal as we live here -- and be ourselves just the same -- only it will be easier to be good and to -- follow the highest. All the hindrances and perplexities will be taken away, and we shall see clearly. Don't be afraid, Ruby"
"I can't help it," said Ruby pitifully. "Even if what you say about heaven is true -- and you can't be sure -- it may be only that imagination or yours -- in won't be just the same. It can't be. I want to go on living here. I'm so young, Anne. I haven't had my life. I've fought so hard to live -- and it isn't any use -- I have to die -- and leave everything I care for."
Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasure on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life -- the things that pass -- forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other -- from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there -- Anne believed she would learn -- but now it was no wonder her soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved.
Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight. The evening had changed something for her. Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different -- something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.
I think L.M. hit this right on the head in many respects and it's something I've thought of myself -- of how important it is to prepare for the next life NOW -- that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32) and that those preparations include gaining knowledge and intelligence -- which "will rise with us" and give us an "advantage in the world to come" (D&C 130:18-19) but also to develop meaningful relationships and establish the "sociality" HERE that we wish to "exist among us there" -- "coupled with eternal glory" (D&C 130:2).
Life IS the time to prepare for eternity -- and death is but a stepping stone into eternal life. Understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation makes this so clear... and yet we still often misplace our attention -- giving too much focus to the "things that pass" and forgetting the "highest", which goes on.
I must try to do more to seek for and live the truly essential things of life -- to begin my own eternity now.