Across the globe Christians and many non-Christians are preparing to celebrate Easter just as our Jewish friends are celebrating Passover. For many this day has rich symbolic and spiritual meaning while to many others it is an excuse to over indulge on chocolate and other treats. To some, it is a time of reflection. As winter dies spring moves forward and offers a new chance to grow and to thrive. It gives us a chance to plant seeds, nurture them in nature and in return to partake of their bounty. The circle of life continues.
Years ago I was taught a story regarding Heaven and Hell, though I have no idea who wrote it and I believe it has many versions, I wanted to share this with you in hopes that it will bring joy or perhaps it will bring a pause for reflection.
“One day God is looking over his creation when he notices a very good man. A man who has dedicated his life to helping others, teaching the good words and promoting good deeds. God is impressed and summons an angel to visit him and offer him anything he desires. The Angel comes down to the man in a glorious vision and tells him of God’s gift. The man pauses briefly as reflection is one of our greatest assets as it helps us to find meaning and focus in a confused world. He tells the angel ‘all my life I have talked about God, of Heaven and of Hell. If I could have anything I suppose that I would like to see Heaven and Hell for myself just once.’ With that, the angel embraces the man and they are whisked to Hell.
As the man’s eyes adjust to the darkness and also the bright glow from the embers of Hell, you see, Hell is an enigma, it both prevents the light of knowledge while it also blinds you with falsehoods, he sees row after row of of buffet tables covered with the most beautiful food and drink that that you could ever imagine. He looks further and notices that in front of the tables are starving, dirty and tortured souls, chained so that all the food and drink are out of reach. They will spend eternity with everything they desire just out of reach.
The man turns to the angel and says ‘angel, please get me out of here; I’ve seen enough.’
As the angel’s wings open once more the man’s eyes adjust to the light of heaven. It’s even, calm and it is peaceful. As he looks about the room he notices that the room too is filled with glorious buffet tables filled with the best food and drink imaginable. He notices that here too people are chained before the table and he grows confused. ‘Angel’ he says, ‘I thought we were in Heaven but I see the people chained as before. Have I been lied to? Is there no difference between Heaven and Hell? Has my life been a waste?’ The angel responds ‘not at all my son, while the people are chained in heaven as is in hell, they are not suffering. Please look closely my son.’
As the man looks closely he notices that though they are chained, they are not suffering. Though they cannot reach all the bounties on the table, they look not thirsty, hungry nor tired. The man grows more confused and asks the angel for guidance. The angel explains ‘you see my child, in Hell, no one works for or cares about anyone but themselves. In Heaven though no one can reach the item they most desire, they have the ability to reach the item that is right in front of them. Thinking not of themselves but of others, they pass that item to the person next to them who takes what they need before passing it on again. Eventually everyone gets what they are seeking, all are fed and all are happy. We are bound not by chains but by our views of them.’”
Our world and perhaps more especially our country is divided more than it has been for quite some time. At a time that many religions hold dear, we have war, fighting, killing and torture. Some is being done in the name of freedom, some is being done in the name of religion, and all it seems can be justified if we want to continue doing so. In this season of possibilities please take a moment to reflect. Be the change that you want to see in the world. Put down weapons of mass destruction and mass distraction and instead pick up the implements of growth, prosperity and acceptance. This world that we live in can be Heaven or it can be Hell. The choice is yours. The change is up to you.