Sometimes I make the mistake of reading the comments on an article or blog post that's been published on a secular website. Never read the comments. Ever.
But sometimes I ignore my own excellent advice and do it anyway. Inevitably one of the themes that pops up is an athiest, maybe former Christian, maybe not, who says something about how Christians live in fear and that's a stupid reason not to do stuff and what the hell (hah! stupid pun intended!) are we really afraid of anyway? THEY are afraid of wasting their lives worshiping a Cloud God, or some...what do they all say? Something about a magical cookie monster or something? I can't remember. And you know what I say to that? ME TOO.
Fear is a really stupid reason not to do stuff.
You know what's scary? Interviewing for a job. Giving birth to children. Raising children. Buying a house. Driving a car for the first time. Getting married. Staying married. Introducing yourself to a strangers when you move to a new town. Moving to a new town. Moving.
Can you imagine a life devoid of all the things that might scare us? That's not the kind of life we're meant to live. "Scary" is not the worst thing something can be.
A wonderful, joyful, fulfilling relationship with God can never be born out of fear in the same way that a wonderful, joyful, fulfilling childhood or marriage cannot be based on fear. Oh sure, there might be some short term "success," the kind of marriage or parent/child relationship that fools the outside world for a little while, but there will never be the heart-bursting, soul-singing happiness that comes from a relationship born of true love.
I am not afraid of hell.
I yearn for heaven.
Not the heaven of sitting on clouds playing harps while observing somber games of saintly backgammon (although if that's what would be most fun for you, I feel that surely that could be arranged. If God can make hummingbirds happen, pretty sure He could hook you up with a harp.), but the heaven of eternal happiness, peace, joy, and love. God doesn't send us to hell. You guys...we CHOOSE IT. The things the Church calls "sins" are not "bad things we shouldn't do because they'll make God mad and you don't want to make God MAD do you? So He smites you? Better avoid all the sins so you can avoid the smiting!"
No, no, no.
The things that will harm our relationships, the things that will hurt us, the things that will make our lives miserable and lead us to choosing a hellish way of being- God does not want us to do because He loves us. ALL of us. Those things, those things that will turn us away from a heavenly way of living and being, the word for those things is "sin." Things are not bad for us because they are sins. They are called sins because they are bad for us.
I am not afraid of hell.
I don't want to waste my time wondering how right or wrong Dante was or whether or not devils have horns and cloven hooves. This time, this energy, these moments of our lives need to be devoted to becoming the kind of people that will bring further joy to the party of eternity. God wants us all there. ALL. But if we continually insist on being the angry uncle at the barbecue who makes everyone else's afternoon miserable, how can He let us stay?
If I am afraid of anything, it is of knowing that my grandmother and my babies are already spending eternity together and I may not be worthy, by my own actions, of spending that same time with them. That I may choose, through selfishness and laziness, to be the kind of person that isn't heavenly.
I may be afraid of losing heaven, but I do not live in fear of hell.