I have no beef with churches and my point here isn’t to ferret out who’s right and who’s wrong. In fact, the way the Guide tells it, the version of things told in my church growing up holds a significant grain of truth. The problem lies in the twist of the tale that turns a fabulous fact into a fib.
Fib #1: Jesus Came to Check a Box For Us
There are quite a few words that have been over-used in churches for so many centuries that we can no longer hear them without inwardly cringing. One of these words is “salvation.” It sits right next to “sin” on the list of words we wish would go away.
And this is such a shame, given the fact that someone went way, way, way out on a limb for us so that one day we could save our sorry selves. So the part of the salvation story saying the doorway to heaven is now open, that rings true. But the notion that simply believing in this is enough to redeem us, well, that sure sounds convenient.
The truth of the matter is this: we got ourselves into this pickle, and while Christ made it possible for us to make our way back to heaven, we have to do the heavy lifting needed to re-right ourselves so we are welcomed through those doors.
What exactly is this pickle of which we speak? Long story short, we were once all good and glorious angels, until we got it in our curious little heads to check out the other side of life: the dark side. Each and every soul who lands at the doorstep of planet Earth at one time followed Satan so far down a rabbit hole of distortions that we found ourselves locked in a world of hurt. Swept out of heaven for our insubordination, we were given the chance to see for ourselves exactly how the other half lives—the negative half.
For we had exercised our free will—the thing that creates in us such a striking resemblance to God—to the extent that we were now living in Lucifer’s lair where freedom had warped into absolute domination. We’d turned our back on Christ as our Lord, and instead wound up with Satan as our keeper. Now rather than loving us to wholeness as is Christ’s way, Satan set to work loathing us to smithereens.
Eventually, our hearts called out for the Light and our collective longing to return home is what sparked Christ to enact the Plan of Salvation, an ambitious undertaking designed to set us back on the straight and narrow. In the end, the only way through the miasma was for someone to come and do the hard work of heaving the doorway to heaven back open for us. That’s what Christ’s mission as Jesus was all about.
All along the way, both before Christ’s time on Earth and after, many other magnificent prophets, teachers and spiritual leaders have come here to help lead us back to the Light. They’re all on the same team; we’re the ones picking sides.
And now that the doorway is open, we are free to do the painstaking work of winding back our inner selves to the version of us that is in keeping with God’s heavenly ways. In short, we’ve all had to learn some lessons. Which brings us to the other fib.
Fib #2: It’s a One-Shot Deal
I was taught in church that we each get a single shot at redemption. So at the end of a life, it’s either thumbs-up or all-the-way-down. But how could that possibly make sense, given our marvelously mixed bags of good parts and not-so-hot parts?
In fact, there are essentially two directions to head, but we get lots of do-overs for landing in the Light. The road home, then, is a long one. Seems fair, since we didn’t arrive here through a single bone-headed maneuver but rather through a series of deliberate life-defying decisions to align ourselves with darkness and negativity. All our unshakable guilt, unbearable shame and stubborn denial of wrongdoing can be traced back to our original “sin” of making choices that go against the grain of God’s will.
We have dug very deep holes for ourselves, and we won’t pole vault out of them in one go. That’s why we must return to this realm over and over again, each time with the intention of regaining a bit more of our inherent glory. God is infinitely patient, friends, and Christ is on our side. This is the true good news. A doorway has been opened for us, and now it’s on us to do our daily work of healing so we can reunite with what’s on the other side—the lighter side.
Truth be told, we have all the time in the world to get there. But no one is going to shoulder our load for us, and there’s no time like the present to get going in the direction of goodness.