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Monday, June 24, 2013

Going to Heaven Shouldn’t Feel Like Going Through Hell

I remember being a young teenage boy and being terrified – terrified because I was afraid of going to hell, but at the same time recognizing that I didn't really love God.  (This was about the same time that I told God to “stay the hell out of my life…”  I really didn't want to end up roasting in the fires of hell for eternity, but I felt like I couldn't get to heaven because I knew that I didn't really love God or Jesus the way that the others at church seemed to do.  I didn't want to lie – and realized that it would only make things worse…

I wanted to explain this my parents, but when your parents are the pastors of the congregation, they're not especially keen to hear from their firstborn son that he doesn't know how to love God, so I didn't say anything about it to them.  I tried to explain my fears to a college student in our congregation who had befriended me, but he didn't seem to understand what I was attempting to say.  He gave me the old stand-by advice, “pray about it.”

That didn't help much.

Years later I discovered the song “Slatherage” by the band Dig Hay Zoose which included the lyric: “Motivation of fear, motivation of love, one of these is hell but it gets the job done,” and I knew exactly what that meant.    I didn't understand love for God, but was driven by that fear toward and away from God at the same time.  For me, in those early teenage years, going to heaven felt a bit like going through hell.

I had to realize that a relationship with God was something more than just going to heaven or hell after death.  I knew even then that loving God had to be about something more than afterlife fire insurance, but it wasn't until later that I realized that loving God wasn't even about going to heaven when I die. 

What I came to see is that it’s not about going to heaven at all – it’s about heaven coming down to me.  God loved me even with my doubt, and fear, and anger…  When I could finally get beyond that fear of hell, I found the love of God – which is heaven in itself.

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Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
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