I probably shouldn’t wax lyrical about how much I love naps. You might get the idea that I’m not one of those people who take the view, “I can sleep when I’m dead.” And who believe that people who truly love naps will probably never lead Fortune 500 companies.
Well, as to the latter, I very much suspect that leading a Fortune 500 company is incredibly overrated. Happiness is worth far too much to me to pay the price for that sort of gig, even if it had ever been a realistic threat.
And to address the earlier opinion—“sleeping when dead”—I have concerns. Since I try to avoid the company of people who say, “I have concerns,” you can see how serious I am about this.
Maybe it would be closer to the mark to say that I have questions. I’m not “concerned” about the afterlife. I really have thought seriously about the topic, and I think the classic Christian hope is more logical, reasonable, and true to reality than the popular modern approach: “I can’t believe in that because I’m modern.” And I have little patience with what I consider the “I’ll just spit into the wind and bravely face the darkness and consider myself some sort of tragic hero” approach. Ironically, it’s too easy. Too lazy. Too full of itself. And too presently popular.
While we’re at it, forget the me-centered “I’m counting on more credits than debits” nonsense: “Well, I’ve sure got my share of problems, but I think I’ve probably been a fairly decent person, maybe, if I may say so, more good than bad, and…” On so many levels, Christians, of all people, should know better than to buy that rot. We are not all Bible scholars or theologians, but are we too illiterate to read St. Paul’s “Letter to the Romans”? The good news, the gospel, is that real faith centers on trust in Christ and not at all in us. The Cross pulls my merit totally out of the picture, and “do it yourself” salvation is still as much a lie as when the Apostle Paul warned us about it in the first century. But it’s still popular. Still false.
So, trusting in Christ and not in me, am I looking forward to something after this life that is more truly life than anything I’ve ever known here? Yes. And I’d rather bet that it’s true than bet that it isn’t.
In Christ, I have the only final and eternal Answer that I need. And God’s got this. But our Father gave us our minds, and questions, in perspective, are more than okay.
Now, back to the end that I believe is far more truly a beginning.
I like the idea of “resting in peace.” Did I mention that I like naps? A very, very long one in the arms of the Almighty would be perfectly fine with me. The great scholars and theologians of the Christian faith have long discussed and even debated whether or not a time of “sleep” might follow death, or if God’s people pass immediately and consciously into what Jesus, speaking to the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), called “paradise.”
Because of such Scriptures, I probably go with the latter position on the topic, though the “sleep” folks are not without some good points of their own. I do suspect that when we talk about what happens “when” after death, and thus bring in the idea of time—and we always do, even when we try not to—we skew the whole discussion and prove only that we’re babes trying to explain trigonometry between diaper changes in the nursery. The wisest people I know usually end up saying they can at least see some good points on both sides and that the only sure answer is that, again, God’s got this, and his arrangements will be more wonderful than we can imagine.
Of this I’m sure: We’re always wrong when we catch ourselves thinking of heaven with any sense of loss. As I think I recall C.S. Lewis having written, the deep kernel of joy within anything here that we rightly love will be beautifully present there but magnified beyond our most wonderful dreams. We lose nothing; we gain everything.
So, you see, though I might be genuinely tempted to ask how perfect bliss can be perfect bliss if no naps are involved, I simply am forced to admit to an appalling level of ignorance and immaturity. Even more serious, I admit that I can hardly imagine the beauty and wonder of an existence where no such thing as physical tiredness or emotional weariness exists at all. Come to think of it, not only are we promised “no tears” there, we are also promised “no sighing.” I sigh a lot.
Real rest. Full and rich, complete and life-filled, utterly infused with joy.
A good nap here is, I suppose, almost too trivial to be mentioned in the same breath as God’s genuine and never-ending “rest.” But neither, I think, should it be counted as anything less than a real blessing and embraced with gratitude. And that is not trivial.
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.