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Hard to Imagine the Afterlife?

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©Heidi Bratton Photography

I know. St. Paul had the same problem though, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Right now our knowledge of God is conceptual, we use analogies from this created world to speak of the Totally Other: “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…[we] shall understand fully, even as we have been fully understood” (1 Cor. 13:12). Don’t take this “darkness of faith” too hard though — we’ve all been through it before; and it turned out great.

None of us remember our first 40-or-so weeks, but they were lived in complete darkness. The entire world was that wet, increasingly-cramped space inside mom’s womb. And we couldn’t even begin to imagine that there was this entire world, entire planet, awaiting us outside. We each lived beneath mother’s heart, exposed to its constant rhythm, and yet had never seen her face! We had grown to recognize voices, but we hadn’t developed to the point of understanding any of words. And birth — talk about trauma! All of that amniotic fluid we were swimming in, gone in an instant; our heads compacted and squeezed through the birth canal; the light; the cold; that humiliating slap on the rump! But we finally entered the real world, finally got that chance to see mom face-to-face, to eat through our mouths instead of our belly buttons, and a million other experiences that were impossible to conceive of from within the darkness of the womb.

Turns out that was just the warm-up: we’re still in utero, and the REAL world awaiting us “outside” remains inconceivable. We’re going to get the chance to enter it though; and just like before, we don’t have a clue when. This time around though, we get to participate in our own growth process. Each “yes” to God allows our spiritual “organs” to develop a bit more. If we haven’t come to full term when the moment of birth arrives though, God has a top-notch NICU experience planned for us (the Church calls it purgatory; 1 Cor.3:10-15). Listen to the Apostle John: “Beloved we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)

St. Francis of Assisi was right on the mark, “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Shane Kapler


Shane Kapler is the author of Through, With, and In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus and How to Make It Our Own and The God Who is Love: Explaining Christianity From Its Center. He can be found online at www.explainingchristianity.com


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