It has been said that in the second before our death, each one of us experiences the entirety of our life and the reason for our existence, and heaven or hell is manifested.
A judge does not meet us, nor a king sitting on a throne giving an order, but an angel who asks us, “What do you see?” Lying there, with every moment surfacing at once: every pain, every mistake, every sin, every regret, we answer her question, and purgatory or paradise is born.
What do we see?
In this same way, now, each moment we live and breathe, we stand before an angel who asks the same question, helping us manifest what we see.
Do we live in hell?
Do we live in paradise?
Does your past haunt your present moment, or does it bless it?
In light of all that you have done, what do you deserve?
Do you look upon darkness?
Do you see: mistreatment, suffering, unfairness or the poor hand life has dealt you?
If so, we may be living in hell long before we even get there. All because, in each moment, we answered a simple question, “What do you see?”
Does heaven or hell exist inside you?
It has also been said that God would never have known Adam & Eve sinned if they did not feel guilty for it. That the test was not about breaking a rule, but what they thought would happen when the rule was broken. To find out, the creator set up an impossible situation, where failure was certain, so they could find out whether heaven or hell existed inside of them. Not to see if they could or could not break a rule, but to see how they would answer the question, “What do you see?” once they did break it.
When God cursed Adam and Eve and said, “Because of what you have done,” the “what you have done” was not so much about the disobedient act, as it was about the story they told themselves afterwards. When questioned as to why they hid from God, they said, “Because we were afraid, because we were naked.” The next question is the most important one. More important than the first question, …
“Who told you you were naked?”
The creator didn’t care so much that they hid, but more so, why they did.
So now we see standing there, in that garden, an angel asking the same question: “What do you see?”
It is not just upon our last breath that we are asked this question; it is upon our first.
You could ask, “Why would God issue a command he knew we were going to break? Why would he force us to fall?” The story of the garden displayed an absolute fall, because, in life, we absolutely fall. It was not a story about mans inability to be perfect, but about a creator, a loving mother, preparing her children for the journey ahead saying:
“Child, I promise you, in this life you will fall. You will get knocked down. You will be betrayed and you will betray others. You will get your heart stomped on and crushed. There will be moments when you look at your life, your past, your mistakes and feel like giving up. You will only see blackness. And in those moments you will hear a voice inside ask you who you are, what you are made of, and what you deserve. No matter how hard it is, get back up. Do not quit. Do not give in. You are better than your worst day and brighter than your darkest night. Tell the voice who you are. You will certainly get knocked down, but get back up.”
Meeting with the Angels
Whether it is our first breath, our last or every one in between, we are continually bringing our past moments forward to the present and asking ourselves, “Who am I? Do I have what it takes? Am I enough?” Each moment we look back, we ask ourselves the question, “What do I see?”
Meeting the Angel Of Your Last Breath, you would tell her about the Angel Of Your First Breath, and how she promised life would knock you down, because that is what life does - but she reminded you not to stay down, because life is worth fighting for. That you have what it takes to fight. And even if life knocks you down seven days of the week, wake up Monday morning and start over again—because life is crucifixion and resurrection. So you get back up, not because heroes never fall, but because life is worth dying and living for.
If you talk to the Angel Of Your Last Breath long enough, you will learn that, just as in the garden, she has more questions, more important than the first.
She would say, “What would you like to see?”
And, if you are honest, you will tell her about beauty and pain and courage and strength. You would talk about darkness and how even though it seemed to swallow your days, there was light that shone in your heart that kept you going, because its flame was not put out by the storms of life, but somehow it grew hotter and brighter with each painful day. A flame that produced in you character, not just to make you behave better, but to persevere, again and again.
You would talk about a life lived that was not perfect and flawless and clean, but rich and deep and full of meaning. You would see that life is not beautiful because there is no pain, but because there is grace to make it through the pain, grace to crush the shell of the seed and open it up to the life inside of it. That somehow, amidst all the mess, there was joy, there was purpose, and there was meaning. You would find yourself smiling, and maybe shedding a tear as you said, “I wouldn’t take back a single moment.” And as the words left your lips, you would be discovering one of the greatest of life’s mysteries — How one beautiful day can brighten a dark month, and one moment of pure joy, amidst all the hardships, makes a life worth living. How if you were lucky enough to have only lived to hold your son on the day he was born, that would be enough.
As you describe what you see, you realize you are telling her the creator’s version of the story… describing paradise, and that you are standing right there in it. And then you see that paradise was all you could have possibly ever received, and if anyone perceived hell, they were a liar, seeing the story incorrectly, and just needing more time – and time they would get.
The Angel would smile and put her arm around you and say:
“Paradise can only be entered by those who are already there. Welcome home. Some fear my question, but I fear their answer. To enter paradise, we do not count your scars; we only ask if you regret them. The beauty of heaven is not the streets paved with gold, but that our citizens never quit on themselves, or each other, no matter how messy it gets. This is not the home for those who are grateful to have never failed, but those who grateful to have just been alive.”
Then she would say, “Come, walk with me in the meadow. When your life flashed before your eyes, I am glad I asked you what you saw, for you told me a beautiful story, and I would love to hear many more.”
Ronnie is an artist who's ideas have launched businesses, apps, music albums, and as of late, cartoons. Visit his website here. He thinks outside the box but don't tell him that, he doesn't believe in boxes, unless you're in a movie cinema. Ronnie lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A with his wife Anna and their three boys Jack, Griffin and Maverick.
See previous articles by Ronnie Herrema