Building the Kingdom of Heaven With Stuff You Have Lying Around Your Own Home
Oct 5, 1998
Throughout my life I have had many conversations about heaven and hell, and what one does to end up in one or the other. The main thing that I now believe is that heaven is the realm of true love, and hell is the realm of no love.
Stopping there, (in order to sidestep doctrinal argument), I switch the scene to my homely house, where my little family of six resides. How do I bring the high minded hopes of my solitary reverie here?
A home can be a place where everybody is screaming at each other, and nobody feels safe. Or, a home can be the place where all the dirt and secrets are known, all the problems, weaknesses and troubles are aired, and yet those things are handled with support and love.
I just went with a group of friends to see the movie, "One True Thing". The gist of the movie involves a mother dying of cancer and her professional, journalist daughter coming home to care for her. The daughter, who had previously idolized her father, begins to see his weaknesses. She thinks her mother is not aware of his faults. But in a pivotal scene, the mother, (eloquently played by Meryl Streep), tells her daughter that there is nothing about her husband that she is not aware of, but that she chooses to love him. She chastises her daughter for being judgmental and hard, and tells her that she should stop wasting time worrying about the things she wants (or imagines that she wants) and instead should focus on the things that she has. When we love what we have, we can find fulfillment and we can experience love in its many forms.
Peter and I had a family bed for a long time. We had several futons on the floor and we all slept side by side. We believed that the close, warm sense of security was ultimately important for the children. They sleep in their own single beds now in a different room from Peter and I, but I will always be glad that we allowed them the physical closeness and 'safety' that sleeping with Mommy and Daddy provided when they were tiny.
My mother and I spent a lot of time hugging as I grew up. Sometimes we stood hugging for a half hour, just experiencing the hug, saying nothing. I am 43 now. My mother has been dead for 15 years, and I moved away from home 23 years ago. The atmosphere of those hugs is one of the sustaining strengths of my adult life today. I try to do the same for my husband and kids, hoping that beyond all my mistakes and parental gaffes, that those hugs will surround their hearts and help to protect them from the slings and arrows of life. (I am hoping that the memory of my love will help to dim the memory of my mistakes too, as it did for me in the case of my own mother.)
Finding one's way through life is like edging along a precipice. I often pray: "Please God, hold our hands so we don't fall in. Please show us the way, please guide us to safety."
It's like the quintessential Popeye cartoon: Swee'pea is crawling on his hands and knees, oblivious to the world around him. Pianos fall from windows just after he scoots past, cars and trucks in the intersection pass before and after him, as he crawls along in blissful ignorance, seemingly protected by unseen forces. Maybe prayer protects us in this way. We go along, totally unaware of the bullets whizzing overhead, the Mack trucks gaining on our ankles as we step onto the curb, or the manhole covers put back just before we fall into the hole.
I read a biographical story about Olive Anne Burns, the author of "Cold Sassy Tree". When she found out that she had cancer, she did not pray to be healed, she prayed not to be afraid. She prayed all afternoon, the same prayer over and over until she wasn't afraid any more. Then she wrote her book, answered her mail, and lived out the rest of her life in bed. She enjoyed a loving marriage with her beloved husband, and when she felt well enough, she put on rock music and danced. She accepted her trials, but managed to live her life as fully and happily as she could.
My husband recently started saying that we should just live by Thumper's Rule. (In the Disney movie, "Bambi", Thumper was the little rabbit who was one of Bambi's friends.) Thumper's mother reminded him that, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." There's so much wisdom packed into that innocuous little sentence.
I keep reminding myself that I am in the middle of living. We can get nuts wondering if we're going to end up in heaven or hell. To me, the point lies in those multitudinous private crossroads that we all face every day. I think God is pleased when we try to do the loving thing. What better reason to try, than that?
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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