Understanding: It’s All About Love (My Story Part Eleven)

Welcome to my story. I’m so glad you’re here! There are 13 posts in this series, and I will update the links as I post them:

  1. Memories of Divine Light
  2. Remembering: El Shaddai
  3. Descent into Darkness
  4. Brush with Death
  5. Visions of Glory and Bliss
  6. Miraculous Healings
  7. Chasing Supernatural Experiences
  8. Disillusionment
  9. Awakening
  10. When my World Caved In
  11. Understanding: It’s All About Love
  12. Rebirth Into Divine Love
  13. You Are Eternally Loved

I invite you to come along with me as I share my memories of brilliant light and unbelievable love, my descent into darkness and depression, and my reconnection and rebirth into Glorious Love. Mine is a story of supernatural experience intermingled with beautiful and broken humanity, the story of a spiritual awakening, of finding and reconnecting with a love I forgot existed, the story of an explosive, incomprehensible light that fills, awakens, heals, connects, animates, empowers, and spills out of every crevice of your being. This is part 11 of my story.

 

I was lying on the couch. It was late at night. I was sick and exhausted with pregnancy. My entire life was falling down around me. Ryan had lost his job, and was laid up with a broken leg. We had just found out we were going to lose our apartment for the second time in three years.

The kids were in bed. William would only sleep for a couple hours before waking. I needed to try to rest, but I was uncomfortably positioned, glued to my almost-dead tablet which was plugged into the wall. I didn’t care. I was spellbound by what I was reading.

“Suddenly, an enormous explosion erupted beneath me, an explosion of light rolling out to the farthest limits of my vision…The Light was brighter than hundreds of suns, but it did not hurt my eyes… I immediately understood it was entirely composed of love, all directed at me…even the word God seemed too small to describe the magnificence of that presence. I was with my Creator, in holy communication with that presence.” [Source]

The words of near-death-experiencer Kimberly Clark-Sharp, who had died of a heart-attack and been revived, demanded my attention. They grabbed me by the heart and forced me to remember. I was plunged into flashbacks – flashbacks that were powerful enough to bring me to my knees in tears. All the things I had suppressed and denied were right there on the screen before me. Someone else had experienced them too. I could no longer pretend I had imagined them or dreamed them up.

Over the following weeks and months, as my life continued to deteriorate, I spent hours reading and listening to every NDE I could get my hands on. And trust me, there are plenty. Millions of people around the globe have had similar experiences. They die, are revived, and return to tell the same story.

They tell stories of a magnificent being of indescribable light and all-consuming love whose brilliant glory burns away their imperfections, recreating them in perfect light. The same exact experience I had remembered and had been searching for, trying to understand or recreate, for my entire life.

In the words of David Bennet, who was thrown from a boat and drowned:

I saw this light off in the distance. I kept moving ever closer to this light and as I got closer there were waves and waves of love that were just wrapping me in this warm embrace. It was the most amazing feeling I’d ever had. And it felt as if this love was actually permeating my being, and it transformed me into this being of light.

In the words of Reinee Pasarow, who collapsed due to an allergic reaction:

I moved into what appeared to be a sea of light… It was as if in the center of this sea there was a sun and my heart was just irresistibly attracted to that… In a tremendous and magnificent instant, I entered the center of this sea of light… the heart of the light, and it was as if I were devastated. It was as if I were just spider silk in the solar wind. I was completely devastated by bliss and by rapture and by ecstasy, and yet I was not. I was simply in, and of, and because of that light…

In the words of Linda Stewart, who died after battling a long illness:

…I lifted my eyes to see a great light in the vast distance. With Christ as my guide, I rapidly approached the light. Ecstasy filled my soul as I looked at the radiance, many-fold brighter than a sun.

The light was everywhere and everything, the brightest I had ever seen and dazzling beyond description. Brilliant enough to blind or burn, yet I was not harmed…the light toward which we were soaring was the fulfillment of my search, the loving Source of all that exists, the God of truth and unconditional love, the origin of creation…The light was love and love was God. Waves of consummate love which emanated from the light obliterated every burden I carried and every thought that kept me from knowing God. I was made aware of my purity. With new clarity, I realized I had been walking through life ghostlike, wrapped in a shroud of fear, huddled against illusions. I stood like a lover, open to the liquid flow of golden light that filled my empty shell to overflowing…There was no limit to the outpouring as I came to the rapturous awareness of the infinite nature of God’s love.

As I read story after story, I was completely blown away. Each one I could have written, each one a variation of the memories I had carried with me since childhood. Remember, I had experienced these things myself.

Over the past couple years, I’ve read and listened to hundreds of NDEs. And let me just take a moment to say that I fully realize NDE’s are not always looked at favorably in Christian circles, and I understand why. NDE’s have to be read with discretion and understood in light of the gospel, and when these conditions are met, I believe NDE’s can be a wonderful, enlightening gift from God. [I highly recommend the book “Imagine Heaven” written on NDE’s from both a scientific and Christian perspective.] Let me share a few of the insights I have gained and how they affected my life.

The majority of NDEr’s describe an encounter with God (a magnificent, holy being of unbelievable love and radiant light), and a panoramic life review in which they are evaluated on the love and compassion they developed in their earthly lives. The details of each NDE are different according to each person’s background, level of growth, and specific needs, but there is one underlying factor that is always, almost 100% of the time in place. And that is a glorious, holy, perfect being of radiant light, God our creator, who loves his creation, who pursues us with white-hot relentless love no matter how far from him we have fallen, and who has given us the choice to respond to his love because that choice is necessary for our own growth. The singular importance of love is emphasized in absolutely 100% of NDEs. Over and over we are told that love is the reason for our lives on earth. We come here to grow in love so we can love like God loves. Period.

The Bible says that God is love. So if the reason for our lives here is to grow in love, the reason for our lives here is to learn to be like God. And this is where the Christian faith comes into play with our belief in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

As I devoured every NDE I could get my hands on, I began to have a new understanding of who Jesus is and what he had done for us, simply by entering this world. Jesus said he came to show us the Father. If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus. He had no home or material possessions – he spent his entire life pursuing people. He spent his time teaching people spiritual truths, seeking out those hated by society, healing all, and sacrificing himself for others. Ultimately, he gave up his life, and as he was dying his last words were to forgive his oppressors.

Jesus was called “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.” Jesus was God, entering fully into the human experience to show us the truth that we could not see with our physical eyes – that God is here. We are held in his eternal love, even if we cannot feel it in these limited bodies.

Jesus’s sacrifice did many things. It showed us the way of unconditional, sacrificial love – which is what we came here to learn. It paid the price for our sins, righted our wrongs, fixed our mistakes, and conquered the powers of darkness that hold us in bondage, enabling us to experience oneness with God in this life [being born again], enabling us to do what we came here to do: to grow into the love of God.

In this physical existence where we feel separated from God, our source of life, love and strength, we exist in a condition which the Bible calls “the fall into sin.” We live out of our emptiness, our lack of connection to our source, which translates into selfishness – trying to fill our needs at the expense of others. There-in lies the challenge of being here. Will we rise above our own needs in compassion for those around us, or will we succumb to our own emptiness, what the Bible calls “our flesh” or “our sin nature?” Jesus, in his sacrifice, provided the way for us to rise above. In him, all sins and mistakes are forgiven so that we are free to grow and learn, which can be a messy business. But we must choose to accept that forgiveness and be transformed by love on the inside. (More on this next time.) I will go to my grave believing the gospel – it is the most beautiful story ever told – that God loved us enough to pursue us into our darkness.

There is no way I could adequately summarize all I learned from the hundreds of NDEs I have read in this post. In fact, I wrote a twelve-chapter book on this exact subject which I hope to publish within the next couple years. For now, here are a few of my favorite quotes from NDErs on the purpose of life. All of these quotes were enlightening and life-changing to me. 

In the words of Kimberly Clark-Sharp who we heard from above:

I got to ask questions that later I thought were pretty profound, like “what’s the meaning of life? Why are we born?” The answers came back very simply: the meaning to life was to learn. Why are we born: it was love. This life is school.

In the words of Betty Eadie, who died of a hemorrhage while staying overnight in the hospital:

…And the purpose for [our] coming [to life on earth] would be to provide situations and relationships that would allow us to learn to love. All who would be led into our paths would lead us to our ultimate achievement. We were to be tested under challenging conditions to see how we would live the most important commandment of all – to love one another.  [source]

In the words of Howard Storm, whose intestines ruptured leading to his death while waiting for surgery:

This life that we’re in is about spiritual formation. That’s the whole point. We’re here to be matured as spiritual beings. We’re not physical beings dreaming about being spiritual, we’re spiritual beings having a physical experience to learn compassion and love in a world with very very finite, limited possibilities. And God will make sure that everyone has that opportunity.

…this is the school of learning how to love, and it’s all experiential learning. It’s not theoretical, it’s experiential.

We are an act of God’s love expressed out, and we bring that love back in a new and profound way to God from this experience of life….And all this sense of separateness and sin and chaos and evil are all things that we need to work our way through to return to the completeness and perfection of that which is God. [source]

In the words of Arthur Yensen who died when his car hit a wall and flipped violently:

If everyone completely understood the afterlife, they’d quit trying to keep up with the Joneses and start learning how to live unselfishly. Here we can change ourselves quite easily and should use this life to make ourselves into the kind of people we want to be in the hereafter. This world is a miserable place for anyone who hasn’t learned internal harmony – characterized by unselfish love.  [emphasis mine]

In the words of George Rodonia who was hit by a car and left for dead three days in a morgue before coming back:

Anyone who has had such an experience of God, who has felt such a profound sense of connection with reality, knows that there is only one truly significant work to do in life, and that is love; to love nature, to love people, to love animals, to love creation itself, just because it is. To serve God’s creation with a warm and loving hand of generosity and compassion – that is the only meaningful existence.

With this new understanding, I felt like all my questions had been answered. All the pieces had fallen into place. Everything finally made sense. I felt peace. I laid down my fears of believing the wrong doctrine, angering God, and waking up in Hell. I stepped outside of religious boxes and just simply allowed myself to believe in the one I had always known was there – the one who spoke to me in my dreams, loved me through the people around me, commanded me to forgive those who had hurt me. This was what God was really like, what he had always been like.

I began to finally understand and surrender to the fact that God truly loved meloved allwith an unconditional, relentless love that is impossible for us to understand or fully experience in this world. This is something I have always known. I came into the world with this knowledge. But I let fears and incorrect teachings drown out that knowledge. I let the hardships of the world deny it.

I examined everything I had learned in light of my faith and found that the teachings of the Bible came alive to me in a new way. Where before I saw in black and white and two-dimensions, now my understanding had been broadened, and I held the same beliefs in three-dimensional color. From Genesis to Revelation, passages jumped off the page full of new meaning.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it.” [John 1:5 NLT]

“God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” [1 John 1:5 ESV]

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40 NLT, emphasis mine]

“You have heard the law that says ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say ‘Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.’ In this way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven.” [Matthew 5:43-45 NLT]

“Don’t pay back evil for evil to anyone…Instead pay them back with a blessing.” [I Peter 3:9 NLT]

“Do not let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.’ [Romans 12:21 NLT]

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” [1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT]

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” [Colossians 3:14 NLT]

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8 NLT]

“This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” [1 John 3:11 NLT]

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1 John  4:8 NIV]

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. [Romans 8:38,39 NLT]

I finally had the answers I was looking for. I finally knew where I had come from and what my memories of glory were all about. I finally understood what the purpose of my life here was.

Love. It was all about love. It was about a God who loved the world into existence, and who had sent us here to learn how to love like he does. It was about a God who came after us when we failed, sacrificing himself for us in the ultimate act of love, to restore us to our true identity – manifestations of his love.

I also understood why my transcendent spiritual experiences had never been fulfilling. They weren’t supposed to be. While they are an amazing gift, and something used by God to get people’s attention, they are not the point of this life.

I had come to this life for a reason – to learn how to find God in a reality in which I felt separate from him. To learn how to love God and those around me in the face of emptiness, temptation and challenge. To reconnect with the Great Love, which is my true identity and reality, through an experience known in the Bible as salvation, or rebirth.

I had to learn how to connect with that Living Light inside me. I had to “accept him into my heart” and know his love on the inside, not somewhere out there. 29 years of believing the Gospel, and I had never had a heart change. Oh sure, I repented of my sins and “accepted” Christ by “faith,” but it seemed like a distant transaction to me. My heart was full of negativity, guilt, fears, and a self-hatred that would not allow me to accept God’s love.

This realization led to the most powerful spiritual transformation of my life.

Next time I will share this transformation: how I finally understood the message of Jesus for the first time in my life, how I was finally reborn into the Spirit, and filled with springs of living water, never to thirst again.

 

 

 

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

12 thoughts on “Understanding: It’s All About Love (My Story Part Eleven)

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