Heaven is at Hand
I am not looking forward to Heaven ...
by the reverend Charles M. Bidwell, PhD
Lent, 2005

I have so often heard that I will get my just reward in Heaven. Well, I'm too impatient for that. Besides I'm not convinced that there is a personal God who will review my life and reward me accordingly. Label me however you will, but I am no longer in awe of an omnipotent, transcendent deity who will invite me through the Pearly Gates.

Oh, I believe in Heaven and Hell, but not as cosmic landscapes in another dimension. I believe that the way we live and perceive our world can be Heaven for some of us and Hell for others of us. Heaven and Hell are real and they are really here and now. Some folks who are trapped in a "living hell" with threats sensed everywhere and a space populated with forces that are against them and people who are making their lives miserable. Such folks see limitations everywhere and live in constant fear that tragedy is immanent. Some folks dwell in a 'living hell' because of the very real threats of abuse from those they are forced to live with. Others are in a hell of a state because of societal oppression and genocide and other arrogances.

Other folks I have met are fortunate enough to perceive of justice and compassion in abundance. They do not see only good and they do know that there are people who are possessed with evil intent and that natural disasters occur, but they do what they can to create more justice and compassion for others and to care for the earth and its life forms. They bring heaven with them and they leave a bit of heaven behind when they leave.

I will not live my life in anticipation of a reward in the life beyond death. I want it here and now and so I work hard at trying to live my life in such a way that I experience heaven here and now. When I treat others with respect and generosity, my life seems happier than when I don't. When I approach a difficult person with compassion (they usually act in hurting ways because they themselves are hurting) and try to understand what they are really afraid of that is underlying their 'prickly' state, then I find they become less hostile, argumentative, and aggressive. When I am attacked, I try to find out what I did that upset them and I apologize.

If there is a Day of Judgement as I enter the life beyond death, then I see it as my soul reviewing how I lived this life and sensing the pain I caused others (and the joy I gave to others). But that's not what motivates my life. I want more of heaven on earth here and now and I want it at least around me, if not my neighbourhood or community, or city or .... I am not looking forward to Heaven after I die; I want to make it a reality around me now.