Your donations enable us to create and share theologically progressive resources that nurture our faith journeys and are used in church communities around the world. If everyone reading this right now gives just $10 we would be able to continue offering these for free.

Deconstruction and Death

Question & Answer

 

Q: By Kimberly,

How does a Christian who thinks she is on the Spiritual/ Interfaith path – evolving, becoming, opening evermore – deal with the death of a loved one rooted in “traditional” Christian ideas about The Afterlife? I find myself desperately hoping there is a physical Heaven – a childhood concept that I thought I had moved beyond- because I want to hold Dad’s hand again someday, and I want to believe he is with my cousin and dear friends who have died. It suddenly feels more secure and yet non-existent. I am surprised, saddened, and grieving (thank goodness).

A: By Rev. Fran Pratt

Dear Kimberly,

I hear and acknowledge your grief, surprise, and sadness. Hopefully something I can say will be helpful. But if not, I’m sending you love from afar.

I’m fond of the saying, “we are spiritual beings having a human (embodied) experience,” which is a quote from the Catholic theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. For me this offers particular comfort, even though I too have deconstructed my ideas about the afterlife, and let go much of traditional Christian afterlife mythology. Perhaps you can resonate with the idea that we are, at our core, in our truest selves, spiritual beings which transcend physicality and 3-dimensional reality. Like me, maybe you can find comfort in the idea that when our time of being inside this physical reality is over, we return to Spirit, and to our truest and most brilliant selves. This concept is supported in scripture, particularly in the writings of St. Paul. Consider 1 Corinthians 15:44; and Colossians 3:3 – “You have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

If your journey has taken you even further afield than this, I offer some more ideas. You’ve said that you are a Christian, so I’ll assume that something about the Christ and his representation of the Divine as Love is compelling to you. I’m comforted by that understanding of the Divine as Love; the ground of our being is love. For me the idea of returning, or of my loved ones returning, to the Ground of Being that is Love is comforting – that after death there is the essence of all life, the Source from which life came, which is Love, our home.

My opinion is, if there’s a physical heaven, it’s going to be here on earth. I get this idea from Christ’s often-repeated words: “The kingdom of heaven is near!” But honestly I’ve come to a place where I don’t need or want heaven to be anything other than here on earth. I don’t need heaven to be some alternative 3D reality. So thinking of the afterlife as returning back to my original life, the one I have as a spiritual being created in the imagination of The Divine/Love, feels positive to me. I think of this sometimes in terms of video games. My kid plays minecraft, which is a world-building game, but it’s contained within this world we actually live in. I like to think that this 3D reality is as to Spiritual Reality as Minecraft is to current-day 3D life on earth. A world within a world, with these temporary bodies as free-willed avatars. We’ve been home all along, as have all our transitioned loved ones.

Beyond these thoughts, my suggestion is this: let yourself grieve. Give it all the time and space it requires to do it properly and authentically. It’s non-linear, not a “one and done” deal. You’ll have to feel your feelings and no one can tell you how to do that. I wish you the best on that very personal journey.

~ Rev. Fran Pratt

About the Author
Rev. Fran Pratt is a pastor, writer, musician, and mystic. Making meaningful and beautiful liturgy to be spoken, practiced, and sung, is at the heart of her creative drive. Fran authored a book of congregational litanies, and regularly creates and shares modern liturgy on her website and Patreon. Her prayers are prayed in churches of various sizes and traditions across the globe. She writes, speaks, and consults on melding ancient and new liturgical streams in faith and worship. Fran is Pastor of Worship and Liturgy at Peace of Christ Church in Round Rock, Texas.

Review & Commentary