As part of my ongoing reflections from my accident, surgery, hospitalization, and recovery, I shared a few reflections on “Postcards From the Edge” and waxed philosophical in thoughts about life, death, the hereafter, the , and the resurrection. I cited a story I read on Facebook, posted by a now-anonymous friend – for the life of me, I can’t remember who, but if it is you, please don’t be offended – about a young girl whose dog passes away. Now this is not me being cynical as I have both a young daughter and an aging dog:
so I truthfully enjoyed this story… UNTIL the last part:
Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her… she dictated these words:
Dear God, Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Dear Meredith, Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love. Love, God
As you can guess by my formatting, it’s this passing comment about how “we don’t need our bodies in heaven” that rubs me wrong in all the right places, this unthinking gaffe that still somehow utterly and deliberately bleeds a disdain for all things material, and reflects the modern pop-religio capitulation to the ancient Greek gnostic (and Platonic) philosophy – without giving it nary a thought. But this is serious folks – we who call ourselves Christian are seriously out of step with historic Christian thought if we believe in the end that “we don’t need our bodies in heaven.”
So while this isn’t a post about “Do all dogs go to heaven?” (sorry), it is indeed a post about our bodies & creation & the material world – that it isn’t something meant to be sloughed off like a tiresome old costume that stinks from wearing it too long (“it’s the smell” as agent Smith would assert, wiping the stank off Morpheus’ brow), but that precisely is what God is in the business of: redeeming and restoring stanky creation and smelly bodies. In other words, God’s agenda for our bodies and creation is not to get us out of this material world, but rather to redeem it with all of its peccadilloes and discrepancies.
I dunno… Plato was preeetttty revolutionary. But I’m willing to wager this gives Plato a run for his money.
In the end I deeply regret that the last two weeks’ talks on personal eschatology crafted from the confines of my hospital bed are forever lost to the ages… due to technical recording issues. Perhaps I will re-preach them someday. Until then – have at it. I’ve had questions so far about my criticism of cremation, and concerns about where we go when we die pre-resurrection. For me this discussion is my bread-and-butter. Well not really. But it can change how you see everything.
Do we need our bodies in heaven? Or is “spirit” all that matters?