In the presence of God I lingered unable to tear away, drawn like a magnet to the light. Yet questions remained, permeating our relationship.
It was enough that I was here I told myself, the suffering was over, I was free at last, no more pain, chemo, or disappointments, but what of Alex, the atheist, my friend? He’d been a good man, one of the best; he’d just been hurt too much. Life had not been kind to Alex. His bed across the ward had been empty for a week, now mine was empty.
Love enwrapped me.
“You want to know?” the presence asked. I inclined my head squirming within, who was I to question?
“You loved him.” The presence beamed, “I did too, I love them all. You wonder if I sent him to hell?” My stomach churned, but I nodded, there was no hiding.
“I do not judge as man judges, even in death there is choice.” My head jerked in shock.
“The state of their heart, the good or evil within draws them. Those that love me fly to My arms as you did, they revel in My love and presence.”
“But what about those that never even heard, that lived their lives in darkness?” The question escaped, Alex’s question, I couldn’t withhold it.
“I made a place for them.”
I saw a cavern deep in the earth, womb like, warm and comforting, pervaded with a soft red glow, where many slept curled in fetal position.
“I spent three days and nights in the bowels of the earth, and My presence remains for these.” The voice pervaded my vision. “It’s paradise. Not heaven, but a reflection of it. They walk in dreams, in healing. These never saw the light, not so much as a glimmer, – My presence would overwhelm them.”
“They lie here cuddled together father and mother, wife and child, families of ancient lands. I’d never cast them out, though they have worshiped strange idols. They are borne here to this soft, warm, womb where together they dream. This is not Hell or Hades, I wouldn’t send these ones there, but they’re not ready for heaven, not even the river, so they rest here awaiting My coming, bound in the depths of the earth, but not in a bad place. In their dreams the light intrudes, they remember forests of bamboo, hills, and mountains, flowers and trees. Through nature I gently lead them from the darkness.”
Music plays, soft, serene like the sounds of nature, lulling them in pleasant sleep.
“When they awake it will seem they slept a short time, but millennium shall have passed. The human mind is a fragile thing. They need to shed the cloaks of darkness, the fear, till one day I can lead them into the light and this time will feel but a dream for them.”
“Even the fires of hell are cleansing. It depends on the depth the sin has reached – fire cleanses all. My coming can be all these things, the touch of My spirit to those drenched in evil it is as a consuming fire, to those in darkness a comforting womb of earth that shelters and protects. To some a cleansing flow of water and to those fortunate enough to have come to Me the wind of freedom and desire. It’s all love, My love for My creation. Sometimes My presence can cause pain as with those drenched in evil, but I love them also and will not abandon them. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m not some callous God watching over an experiment.
They choose where they go. Some run to the light, others shade their eyes and some, yes some, are consumed by it, like one who, drenched in gasoline, comes in contact with a flame, the flame of truth, and it burns and consumes them. But even for these there is hope, redemption. I would that none perish.”
I stood in awe overwhelmed by the love of God. I saw it now. It is not God that separates Himself from us, but we from him. Alex was forgotten in my thirst to understand.
“You spoke of water, a river?” God smiled and Heaven glowed.
“You wish to see it? Your heart may tarry there a while…”
An angel came, summoned by His hand, raw power and love emanating from its countenance. The angelic being took my hand and we were transported to a rivers edge, pale, translucent water gleaming with light.
“Come.” The angel directed.
As our feet entered the waters things of earth began floating away. Longing to immerse myself I rushed into its embrace finding no need to hold my breath. A soothing melody flowing from the depths enraptured me, but as I opened my eyes in abandon I realized the river was full of floating forms.
Startled I stood up looking questioningly at the angel.
“They sleep,” he explained. “their hurts and pain are slowly washed away. Come.”
We entered in a little more and I saw a body sleeping near the surface, face barely submerged. It was Alex.
“Some plunge within, like lepers seeking cleansing,” the angel said, “for these it is faster, but he resists, he has yet to enter deeply. You can lie beside him and dream a while with him if you want. It would help him. There are others too…” I understood.
I sank into the gentle waves beside Alex. “Hello old friend,” I said.