I read with interest Paul Moroney’s editorial titled, “An older man contemplates his eternal future” [Viewpoints, Nov. 22]. Although I won’t admit to being “older,” I’ve recently had a special opportunity to consider my eternal future. My breast cancer diagnosis in April of this year has been a catalyst for pondering eternity, as well as the remainder of my time on this earth. So since Moroney’s piece hit a spot that has been on my mind lately, I’d like to offer some additional thoughts on the matter.
A piece that I felt was missing in Moroney’s article was one of the tenets of Christianity that is among the most precious to me: the opportunity for a relationship-even a friendship-with our Creator. To me, this is what sets Christianity apart from all of the other religions of the world. The coming of Christ that many of us will celebrate this month opened the door for us to approach God, to know Him, to be known by Him, and to develop a deep, intimate relationship with Him. What a wonder!
Friendship with God was the sustaining force during the time I was being treated for cancer. His presence was sweet. His reassurances were priceless. His provision for every physical, emotional, and spiritual need was precious. I can’t imagine walking through this valley without Him. And in fact, because of His friendship, this wasn’t much of a valley at all. Instead it was a rewarding, life-changing season that only solidified my understanding of how magnificent He is, and how splendid it is to be His child and friend. Death loses its sting when God is so near.
In his article, Moroney envisions death as a passage that brings us to the “stark knowledge of God” and the realization that “God is the essence of goodness”. He says that for those who have lived a good life, “God’s radiance reflects on us, and we are in ecstasy,” but for those who have lived poorly, that same revelation of radiant goodness causes us to realize with “eternal, dark depression” that “we have now seen goodness, and we are not it.”
Although there are aspects of this vision that resonate with me, I’d like to propose another thought: What if we had the opportunity to meet God now, before we make that passage into eternity? I think that very opportunity lies before us. We can encounter the “stark knowledge of God” now, in this life. We can experience at least a portion of the magnitude of His goodness now. The down side is true as well: We don’t have to wait for eternity to be crushed by the realization that there is a huge chasm between us and that glorious goodness that God embodies. As we get to know Him better and better, we realize that even for the best of us, there is no way to come anywhere near to living out the kind of goodness we see in the Creator of the universe.
In fact, my experience has been that as our relationship with God deepens, that chasm becomes more and more real. On one side is our Creator, the striking embodiment of all that is good. We stand on the other side, knowing that even in our best moments, our goodness is tainted by selfishness and greed. This is where the story of Christmas becomes incredibly real and personal, because the arrival of Jesus on earth heralds the bridging of that chasm. His birth, His life, and especially His death created a bridge that spans that chasm because His goodness reaches to God where ours falls far short.
And as Jesus bridges that gap, He invites us into friendship with the eternal, a friendship that makes it possible for us face eternity with confidence and joy. What could be better than spending time without end in the presence of your Best Friend? What could be more satisfying than entering into the full embodiment of His goodness-a goodness that is so vast that we get only minute tastes of it as we walk with Him, day by day, here on earth.
Moroney spoke of “three-and only three-gifts” that he believes God gives: life, free will, and the chance for eternal salvation. I’d like to add one more to that list: the offer of His own friendship. I think that offer far outshines the other three. Friendship with God enriches life beyond compare. Friendship with God informs and influences our free will; it’s the foundation for any ability we might have to begin to convey the goodness that is so characteristic of our Creator. And friendship with God puts us on the path to eternal salvation.
This friendship is a gift that is being offered to us once again this Christmas. It’s up to each one of us to decide whether or not we’ll take this present, pull off the wrapping, and recognize it for what it is: the best gift that’s ever been offered through all of time.