Many Births, Many Deaths

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Many Births, Many Deaths

 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

One of the central points of embodiment is that the me that we consider as our life is not a single entity. Our life is actually many lives held together loosely by a single identity. In order to understand our death and dying it is helpful to acknowledge that, at least on the physical plane, there is no specific I am that is us throughout our lives. Our bodies are constantly changing, with component parts being added and eliminated, dying and being reborn. In addition, who we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually changes on an on-going basis, too. There is a uniting force holding us together, but it is in the spiritual realm where it remains mostly hidden and beyond our understanding. When we equate our life with our body, we tend to see our physical death as an annihilation because the ever-changing form we know as our body will not last another day, let alone forever.

In general, we prefer to keep most of the physical regeneration process out of view by covering our wounds and having dead animals removed from the sides of our roads. Some of our fear of death is from poorly understood projections about the recycling processes of our bodies. Our images are fueled by grotesque recreations like The Living Dead and The Zombie Apocalypse. Such theatrical productions are geared towards macabre entertainment and not reality. We fear what we do not understand, and we clearly do not understand the amazing process of physical regeneration. The parts of creation that make resurrection possible by deconstructing old life forms – worms, maggots, mushrooms and other fungi, buzzards, and various types of bacteria – tend to be viewed with disgust, but new life would not be possible without them. The fact that nothing of the earth is ever annihilated, only reformed, should give us hope that at our death our essence will not be annihilated, either.

Our lives consist of a never-ending series of deaths and rebirths, both physical and non-physical. Every night when we go to bed, a day in our life dies. We do not fear this death because we have confidence that we will wake up (be reborn) the next morning. Every time we celebrate a birthday, wedding, birth of a child, or graduation we celebrate a death of the old and a birth of the new. Again, we do not fear these types of deaths because we see something good on the other side of them. We only fear letting go when what comes next is unknown. For example, it is easier to let go of one home when we are moving into another home by choice than when we let go of a home not knowing where we will find shelter going forward. In the prolonged death journeys of my mother and grandmother, my sense was that the closer they got to death, the more they welcomed it. They began having visions of and experiences on the other side that made the transition more comfortable. It is the unknown nature of the life after this life that causes so much of our discomfort about death.

The Bible is not necessarily a helpful source of information about what happens after physical death, either. It is probably safe to assume that the biblical authors were as much in the dark on that topic as we are. Certainly, there are sporadic references to heaven and hell, but the fact that they make up such a small portion of the Bible may indicate that these presumed afterlife destinations were not as concerning to them as they are to us today. There are many possible reasons for that, some of which I will reflect upon in the coming weeks. In short, I believe that how they saw the afterlife was vastly different from how we see it. Jesus talked frequently about the kingdom of God, but there is good reason to believe he was talking about a present state of being in the here and now, more so than a possible future state after death.

While we have little ability to see or understand the afterlife with any certainty, we should take comfort in knowing that everything else we know in God’s creation is reborn and that only forms are annihilated. Because God created the spiritual realm, too, it seems reasonable to assume that rebirth and resurrection exist there, too.

This is the 5th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

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