Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eternity is so.... eternal.

Disclaimer: I wrote this post January 27th and totally forgot about it. I thought it'd be nice to post something today, got completely lazy, and dug this happy,carefree gem up. You're welcome.

I've spent the last 15 years (at least) of my life being really unnaturally afraid of death. Well, let me clarify. I'm not actually afraid of the process of dying. I certainly hope it's not some long, drawn out, painful process, and of course I hope to be around 110 when death approaches, but dying doesn't freak me out. It's eternity that gets me. Most people (from what I've gathered in many obsessive conversations over the years) seem to be more afraid of dying, and the thought of Heaven is what calms them down. But I get so worked up about eternity, and there isn't much to calm me down. I don't know that I've ever had a real panic attack, but letting my mind spiral about the concept of eternity is about as close as it gets for me. I specifically remember thinking about it in church one time. It ended with me red in the face, requiring deep breaths, and feeling like I needed to run out of the church. Yeah, it ain't pretty.

What is it about eternity that freaks me out? Ok, I get that there's probably not a concept of time in Heaven. But I still think, what will we do for forever? I remember being at youth retreats in high school where we'd be in adoration or singing praise and worship songs and thinking "Ahhh, ok. If Heaven is like this, I can handle it." But forever is a really long time. I mean, really, really long. With no end. My human brain can't understand the concept of something that doesn't end. Everything on Earth ends. Everything. Our days end, our seasons end, our lives end. This may sound really silly, but the thoughts of reincarcation (which I totally don't believe, just for the record) is more comforting to me than the thought of eternity, if only because it is cyclical and has an end (well, I guess until you reach nirvana which I'm not super educated about, and then maybe it's just avoiding the inevitable). My human brain can't understand eternity, nor can it understand the concept of timelessness. So while I think, "what are we going to do for eternity?!?!?!" and begin dry heaving into a paper bag, I know that in heaven it won't feel like eternity... at least not in the bad way.

I've only recently begun to get a handle on my emotions regarding death. You can ask my poor mother- I came into their room MANY times when I was younger freaking out about death. And by younger I mean 17. Then, when I got older, I'd go to a friend I felt was very religious and could make me feel better. I quit doing that after one told me she was ready to die that day and another told me she didn't really believe anything would happen after she died. Yeah, neither particularly helpful. But after many, many years struggling with fears surround eternity, I've only noticed in the last 6 months or so that I've begun to think about it without feeling the need to swipe an Ativan from someone. And the last six months, I've been more into my faith than I ever have. Delving into my faith has brought me some peace on the issue, which was much needed. When my mind tries to jump on the fear train, I just tell myself "If you like Earth THIS much, and you wish life here would never end, and it is beyond flawed, imagine what you will feel about Heaven." Then I try to imagine what it might be like, and I imagine getting to see all kinds of natural wonders that I wasn't able to see in this life, and that helps, too. (I also imagine cats and flower fields and ice cream... come on God, make it happen.) This is not to say that the feelings don't creep in, but I'm able to use my faith and the knowledge I have to calm myself. I've seen a LOT of good things come from digging more deeply into my faith and incorporating it into my every day life, but this has been one of the best 'side effects'. I was so tired of living in fear of the concept of Eternity. My google search has many less hits for "promises about heaven", "scripture about heaven", "what does God say about heaven", and "what do we do for eternity?", so that's progress, right?

Do you get freaked out by death and/or eternity? What things make you feel better? Do you just avoid thinking about it all together? Did I just ruin your day by making you think about it?

11 comments:

  1. To be honest, I think I am actually more freaked out about whether or not I am a good enough person to make it to heaven!

    I think it's kind of exciting to think about heaven though. I know eternity is a long, long time (forever!), but I wonder if we will think of it in that way once we are there. God had no beginning and has no end, and I have heard before that there is no such thing as time in heaven. I think it's really hard to wrap our minds around what eternity in heaven will be like because of the fact that we are bound by what we know and experience on this earth through time.

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  2. Lutherans believe we're saved by grace through faith so I'm not totally afraid of where I'm going though it has taken a few years to be OK with it. Truthfully, the closest I came to dying was three years ago and I wasn't afraid. My doctor theorized that the reason I survived was that I was mentally pushing myself to do so.

    The most comforting story I've heard has to do with Corrie Ten Boom and her father. I don't remember exact quotations but it was something like her dad asking her if she remembered when he would give her train tickets when they traveled. Her answer: when we are about to board the train. He likened death to that -- God gives us the ability to deal when we're actually facing death and not before.

    I was really terrified of this when I was a kid and I'm not really fighting it now -- I think it probably stopped in college. I think where I am with death now is that it will be rest for my body and an adventure for my soul.

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  3. I can remember as a child my parents teaching me that bedtime prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I die before I wake, I pray for Lord my soul to take." I can remember having NIGHTMARES about not waking up and dying in my sleep!! After that my parents stopped praying that prayer.

    Now I don't so much fear my own death but the deaths of others. Death is really hard for me to process as a lot of close people died when i was very young. It's still something I struggle with and cry about.

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  4. I can remember as a child my parents teaching me that bedtime prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I die before I wake, I pray for Lord my soul to take." I can remember having NIGHTMARES about not waking up and dying in my sleep!! After that my parents stopped praying that prayer.

    Now I don't so much fear my own death but the deaths of others. Death is really hard for me to process as a lot of close people died when i was very young. It's still something I struggle with and cry about.

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  5. Eternity doesn't freak me out so much as the fact that God has no beginning. I start to really panic if I let myself think about that too much. I have NO idea why.

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  6. I don't think about the eternity stuff so much - my worry is that no one will remember me because I'm not special and haven't done anything important in this life. The older I get, the scarier it gets. I do feel better now that I know I will be cremated and not put in the ground to rot away. Now I need chocolate!

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  7. I had the same fear growing up. You described it pretty well.It freaked me out that there won't be an ending in Heaven (or Hell). Now anytime I think about it for a bit, I just shake my head and try to focus on something else.

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  8. Thanks for this article. I'm 17 and I happen to be in your shoes. Most people I've met have talked about heaven and eternity as such a great and glorious thing (which it is). However, for me, that only brought up scary and uncomfortable thoughts. It's exactly what you said- that its too difficult for our human minds to imagine. Hopefully it will provide comfort rather than fear as our faith grows. Praying for all of you who also struggle with this fear.

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  9. This article. YES.
    I've been having the SAME exact reactions to the thought of eterntity!! I am so happy someone else gets it! I have wanted to express my feelings to my family and friends about it but I don't want to freak them out lol. Your reasoning with eternity have definitely helped me out! Thank you :)

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  10. This. YES. Definitely described my feelings towards eternity to a T! I've recently been freaking out over it, but seeing this article has reassured me, as well as give me some well needed peace. Your reasoning with eternity has given me an entirely new perspective on it! :) Thank you!

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  11. This. YES. Definitely described my feelings towards eternity to a T! I've recently been freaking out over it, but seeing this article has reassured me, as well as give me some well needed peace. Your reasoning with eternity has given me an entirely new perspective on it! :) Thank you!

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