A friend of mine posted this on Beliefnet in response to another post where someone made a list of people he didn’t expect to see in heaven. It’s a poem he learned from his grandfather. I thought I’d post it here because it spoke to something in me, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
I dreamed death came the other night,
And heaven’s gates swung wide.
With kindly grace, an angel came
And ushered me inside.
And there, to my surprise
Stood folks I’d known on earth!
Those I’d judged of no account
Or of very little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips
But never were set free;
For every face showed stunned surprise!
No one expected me!
Here is a link to the relevant thread:
I’m Beautiful_Dreamer, but you probably already knew that.
The post that this was in response to wasn’t one a lot of Christians would disagree with. Or, one that would surprise anyone. The person who started the thread (I’ll call him ‘I’ here) put up a list of people he did not expect to see in heaven, even though they claimed to be Christians and to be trying to spread the Gospel like we have been commanded to. Here is I’s list, although I’m sure you can think of a few more:
J. Edward Decker.
I’m going to leave it to you to Google these guys, since I don’t want to defile my keyboard or blog by typing their descriptions in here.
I can definitely agree that anyone who has been exposed to the likes of Fred Phelps and Jack Chick probably had to take a shower after reading or listening to them for more than five minutes. Fred Phelps even reminds me of the evil robot character featured in the beginning of the Terminator movies, complete with the glowing red eyes. It’s actually quite scary to look at!
I think one reason this stood out to me is because I try to make a point not to ‘guess’ the eternal destinations of other people. If I ever *do* mention such things about someone I know who has died, I assume they are in heaven. After all, I have no way of knowing if they are anywhere else, and it’s not for me to say anyway. I’d much rather be wrong by saying someone is in heaven than by saying they are in hell! It’s like my friend D says, ‘I’d rather be held responsible to God for bringing someone to the table who shouldn’t be there than for keeping someone away from the table who should’. As much as I’d like to say that certain people I don’t like are in Hell, I have no way of knowing whether or not they made their peace with God, what He had to say to them, etc. I don’t want to think that there is anyone who is beyond redemption because, if there is, I’m afraid I might be on the list. I may not have murdered millions of people in the name of some crazy philosophy or waged some kind of ungodly war, but I *have* failed to love my neighbor as myself and to love God with all my heart, soul and mind.
Some might say there is a ‘hierarchy’ of sins, some being ‘mortal’ and others not. I can see why they might say that, but I’m not sure how productive a teaching like really is. As hard as I try not to, it’s so easy and tempting to slip into the place of the Pharisee praying in the temple, saying that he’s glad he’s ‘not like that other guy over there’ (Luke 18:9-14, paraphrased). If I were to say, ‘hey I haven’t killed anyone lately, so I’m better than that guy’, I might be missing the point of penance, which is to repent for my *own* sins. One thing I really like about the Episcopal church’s liturgy is that the focus is completely on centering ourselves, on confessing our own sins and weaknesses rather than pointing fingers at anyone else. The idea that was presented to me was that, if we spend the proper amount of time and reflection on trying to make ourselves more like God and draw closer to Him, we won’t have time or energy left to judge anyone else. Honestly, this makes a great deal of sense to me. While I don’t think it’s psychologically (or physically!) healthy to beat myself over the head, I figure that it is much better for me to take the log out of my eye than it would be for me to try to take the speck out of someone else’s.
Ugh. I didn’t mean to ramble on for this long. I guess that in and of itself was ‘unexpected’. Let’s just say I’m trying to regain whatever sense of spirituality I may have had, since half the time my head feels like an empty wasteland. Hopefully this will stick with me…it’s 1 am and I’ve had thoughts that are anything but godly lately. Oh well, such is life on this fallen planet.