Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Where Do You Go When You Die?

I've been thinking about death a lot lately.

Well, I guess I've actually been thinking about aging more than death, but for me they are both wrapped up together. I'm beginning to reach a point where aging is no longer something I look forward to. My grandma is dying and my dad just celebrated another birthday--and it's kinda freaking me out.

I remember as a little kid, all you want is to be older. With each birthday comes more privileges, more freedoms, and more knowledge. The older kids are always bigger and cooler. As a kid, you idolize your friend's 16 year-old brother who gets his first car and starts going on dates. You wish you were a high schooler with a locker and text books like you see on your favorite TV shows. But once you are that 16 year old with a car and a girlfriend and a locker and text books, all you want is to be in college. Each birthday is something you look forward to--up to a point.

So, I realize I'm still very young, but I've reached the point where I don't have any birthdays to look forward to until I retire. There's nothing special about turning 25 or 29, and there is certainly nothing exciting about the tens digit getting higher. Each new birthday I celebrate brings me a year closer to death.

I don't mean to be morbid (I promise I'm not one of those people who thinks that being fixated on death is somehow sophisticated), but I'm beginning to wonder if my apprehension of aging/death has something to do with my uncertainty about the afterlife. My biblical studies have made it clear that the Bible is equivocal about the afterlife. Sometimes there is nothing, sometimes there is sheol (a state of partial existence that fades into nonexistence), sometimes there is heaven and hell, and sometimes it is just really unclear.

If you were to ask me about heaven and hell, I would have to respond, "I really don't know that there is much to say about either one." Sure, my agnosticism on the issue may seem like a cop out, but I really don't think we can be very certain about something that no living person can experience. But that doesn't mean that it isn't an important question--after all, that question is what makes me apprehensive about death.

We all want something to live for and we want our lives to be more than just a short-lived battle against entropy. For some of us, there is hope and meaning in the prospect of an afterlife. Because I was raised knowing that there is a heaven and a hell, having that certainty disappear on me is unsettling.

So, where do you go when you die? I'm just not sure that there is much I can say on the subject. I believe in God. I believe in redemption.

I just hope I'm right.

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