Real Life Thoughts on Death and the Afterlife

 What if I was wrong this whole time?

At the times of my life where I have doubts about my faith, by default, a few things come to mind which always bring me back to security.  After all, it’s not so difficult to get distracted with thoughts like, “with all the different religions in the world, only one can be right…how do I know I picked the right one?” 

I instantly remind myself that Christianity is the only religion where a person can not be a good enough of person on their own to earn eternal life: Aside from doing “good works” (helping those in need) a person has to become humble enough to rely on the grace of God to save them, through faith. 

Both necessary elements of salvation (good works and God’s grace) are based in love.  Our love for all other people (which reflects our love for God) and God’s love for us. 

If nothing else, the fact that Christianity is the only major religion in the world that requires love for it to work, that’s enough for me: We love God by loving other people; He loves us by showing us grace (undeserved blessings). 

And while it may seem New Age, or like a medieval fairy tale, or even an idea as “out there” as something from the show LOST, I can’t deny that it’s impossible not to think about what happens when we die.  Especially when someone in real life, that I know personally, dies. 

I don’t see how a person could go to a funeral and not seriously question what will happen when they themselves die.  It takes so much faith to say, “I belief when we die, we die” or “I’m a pretty good person, if there’s a heaven or an afterlife, I think I’ll make it”.  I don’t have enough faith to say that.

And since I have less faith, I instead believe in Christianity.  Because for me, it takes a lot of pressure off of me.  My good works aren’t the cause of my salvation; they’re the proof of it.  The rest, God’s has already taken care and is taking care of and will always take care of.

Worst case scenario: I’m wrong.  I live my entire life under the belief that a sinless Jewish man over 2,000 years ago somehow took on all the wrongdoings of every person in the world’s past and future by allowing Himself to die so that He could live with them in eternity, then came back to life to tell us to let everyone know that He loves them and that we should love others through our actions. 

So I spend time studying an ancient holy book written by a bunch of (mainly) Jews, memorizing the highlights of it that stick out the most to me.  And instead of by instinct worrying about things I can’t control (like trying to sell my house), I pray about them in the best faith I have, knowing that God will be glorified through it. 

And by doing my best to follow the teachings of that ancient book, I end up staying out of trouble, for the most part.  I eventually die and at my funeral people say that I was a good person and that I loved the Lord.

But in this worst case scenario, let’s say I was wrong about it all.  Let’s say that this life really is all there is- so I die and that’s it.  I have no consciousness or memory; I exist no more.  Like I was never born.

That worst case scenario is a risk I’m willing to take.

But aside from me thinking that Christianity is the best fit for me compared to other religions, aside from the fact that death itself makes me think about what happens when I die, there is the fact that life itself points me to a Creator. 

And if there is a Creator who took the creative thought and the time to invent the universe and the people in it, there I want to know who He is.  And if I know who He is, I want Him to like me.  And if I want Him to like me, I’m gonna find a way to do it.

So I did.  And ultimately, all those “God-given” thoughts led me to becoming a Christian. 

Christianity in a nut shell:

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast. (Shows the importance of being humble enough through faith to accept God’s love for us through the sacrifice of Jesus.)

 Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared behforehand so that we would walk in them.”  (Shows the importance of our love for other people through our good works, which mirrors God’s love for us and is proof that we love God.)

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Manspeak, Volume 2: Heroism

Subconsciously I view handymen and auto mechanics as super heroes. Because the only thing I can build is a Lego house and the only vehicle I can fix is a Lego car. While I’m not a “slow learner”, I don’t learn new skills quickly. It takes daily practice for at least several weeks before I master something new. So to see a man who gets daily exposure to these expected masculine events, I can’t help but have admiration.

Any laugh track infused sitcom that features a typical “dad figure” has had at least once episode where there is a need for home repair and the man of the house rises to the occasion (against the advice of others in the household, namely the wife). Of course, the man botches the job for the comedy highlight of the episode: On Who’s the Boss, Tony “fixed” the toilet upstairs but smashed a hole in the floor which he fell into, causing only his butt to be visible from the living room ceiling by his family below. On Perfect Strangers, Larry “fixed” the shower but it caused the shower head to shoot water across to the other side of the bathroom and blasted Balki in the face, who decides to just stand there with his mouth open and drink the water instead of move out of the way. And as for Home Improvement, “man hilariously attempts home repairs” was the theme of every entire episode.

The fact that under-qualified men continue to try to fix things when they don’t really know how to, is a universal issue. Why? Because it is a man’s job to fix things. It is literally the way men were wired. A woman says to a man, “Our garbage disposal isn’t working right. I think we should call someone to come fix it.” The man hears this: “You’re a man, capable of figuring out how to fix this, but instead, I’m going to call another man to get the job done because he’s more qualified than you”. Shrinkage follows at just the thought of another man walking in the door with his tools.

A man walks around with this hidden fear that he will not be successful in life. In all ways big and small. If he can’t successfully make the evidently simple home repair, he fears he may be seen as insufficient, incapable, and useless. When he longs to be the hero. And hiring someone else to do the job makes him feel unnecessary. May seem a little over the top, but being a man, I recognize the tendency of thinking in terms in worst case scenarios about this stuff.

This also explains the all too familiar (yet somehow not cliché because it’s so true) story of the man who won’t stop to ask for directions. It’s a man’s job to explore and find his own way if he’s lost. A major sense of accomplishment if he can do it. And just for the record, he’s not lost. He’s either taking the scenic route or the short cut (depending on how much time is delayed).

One of my proudest accomplishments regarding home improvement was when I turned down an aggressive salesman who knocked on the door one sunny Saturday morning. If I signed a year-long contract right then since his company was already in the neighborhood, his company would regularly spray my house for bugs for the low, low yearly fee of $545. He inspired me to immediately drive to Lowe’s and purchase a 5 gallon sprayer for $11. Needless to say, I now consider myself a professional bug killer.

Last week as I was getting ready for bed I heard my wife scream loudly from the stairs. My initial thought is that someone broke into the house. I ran over to the stairs to find the intruder to be a wolf spider. A very large scary spider that appeared quite afraid to end up lost and confused at the top of the stairs. I took on the form of the 1984 no nonsense straight-faced Bill Murray, racing downstairs to transform the vacuum cleaner into a proton pack with which I sucked up the monster with great force, feeling the vibration of the thump as it was crushed to death by my weapon. I was a hero. An ego trip shortly followed.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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