Welcome to heaven. Just beyond those billowy clouds are the pearly gates. It's time to introduce yourself to God.
What would you say?
While the Creator is all-knowing and the question is unlikely to arise, your answer is of great importance especially as it relates to your health and well-being. We encourage each participant to respond to this question during our Insights for Living Beyond Cancer program written by Bernie Siegel, MD and yours truly. Our goal is to consider the prospect of dying in the context of inspiring people to live their lives more fully.
Sometimes the answers we receive provide significant insights into one's sense of personal identity. Often people are taken back by the question. A typical response follows:
"I'm a 42 year-old mother of 2 children, ages 9 and 11. I’m 5'5" tall and weigh 135 lbs. My hair is brown and my eyes are blue. I'm married, and we have a pretty good relationship. I work in a bank, make good money, and my job is stressful. By the way, I go to church on Sundays whenever time permits."
This question related to death actually reveals the challenges awaiting this woman in life. Imagine for a moment describing yourself to God in a similar manner that projects such a constricted self-image. One might expect this person to lack self-esteem as well as a needed sense of meaning and purpose. Her introduction echoes a sense of emptiness - a void that needs to be filled.
The manner in which we face the challenges of living determines our self-worth. It's not about age, height, weight, hair color or wages. Our greatest attributes are the qualities we develop through life's journey. The choices we make sculpt our unique evolution as individuals - spiritual beings with extraordinary potential. The stakes are high. As Richard Bach once said, "I gave my life to become the person I am today."
The questions I'm really posing are: Who are you? How do you envision yourself? Do you see yourself as a unique and precious child of God? What have you learned about life, and how have you evolved as a person?
Perhaps now is the right time to discover your own answers. Why not take a few minutes for reflection before reading the following introduction which I would be proud to call my own?
"God ... there’s no one quite like me. I made it this far because I never gave in to life's challenges. I've won a few and lost a few. Actually I even won when it seemed like I lost! I awaken each morning refreshed. I've painted a new canvas of life each day. I don't go to sleep angry. I've learned to smile even when there were no more tears to shed. I laughed in the face of adversity over and over again despite the visible and invisible scars that don't hurt any more. I've loved deeply and am loved by my wife, children and a few lifelong friends. I've thrived on walking through the world's greatest art galleries we know as forests, and I don't step on bugs … if I can see them. I've heard your voice in nature's symphony and I've joined in. I've reached out and extended my hand to strangers. I'm at peace with myself. I know there are no coincidences. I'm still learning. And even when I was low and about to quit, your footprints in the sand gave me the strength to venture onward. You never cease to amaze me!"
Now imagine reciting your introduction at the gates of heaven. Are you proud of what you have to say? Is there a healthier self-image you need to develop? What can you bring to God that is worthy? Regardless of your situation or state of health, you have enough time to realize your priorities and create your heaven on earth.
And speaking of priorities, I'd like to share a story about a man who, upon dying meets the Angel of Death. After incessantly pleading to bring along a prized possession, the angel finally gives in. Upon entering the Pearly Gates, God asks the man to reveal what was precious enough to jeopardize his transition to heaven. The man subsequently opens the case and proudly displays a stack of pure gold bars. God looks up and asks, "Why did you bring pavement?"
Ultimately you alone have to decide whether or not what you bring to God is mere "pavement" or something within yourself that is far more valuable. Self-worth might very well be your most precious commodity. There’s no better time than the present to step up to the plate and shout, "Introducing ... I am ..."
Know that it can make all the difference in the world--Mind Over Matter!
© 2000 Barry Bittman,
MD all rights reserved