I have just finished reading a book, ‘Waking up in Heaven’ by Crystal McVea about a woman who had a near death experience in which she found herself in the presence of God. God showed her an image of herself as a little child – innocent and carefree and in love with life. This was herself before the bad things happened to her – the sexual, physical and emotional abuse – that made her into an angry and rebellious person, trying to find fulfilment in all kinds of disorderly behaviour. She realised her innocence was still there – buried beneath the scars of her reactions to the abuse. Seeing herself as God sees her, she was able to love herself for the first time and to feel worthy of God’s love. She felt His immense love and forgiveness and, when she woke up in her body again she couldn’t wait to share her experience with everybody. She even found she could forgive the perpetrators of the abuse. Many people, especially women who had been abused as children, were profoundly helped to heal after hearing the story of Crystal’s life and her near death experience.
God knows us better than anyone and He sees the underlyinng reasons behind our behaviours. He loves us dearly and we are forgiven whether we know it or not. So many people have the guilt of past wrongs hanging over them and the feeling that they could not be good enough to get into heaven. They should not feel that all is lost. If we are sorry for what we have done and made amends, it is time to accept God’s forgiveness and love and move on to a better life. We should not blame God for the bad things that happen to us because He leaves everyone in freedom to do good or evil. But we should know that He is always with us and will bring good out of every situation. Crystal understood the answers to all her questions about why God allows suffering while she was with Him but was unable to remember them when she was back in her body. While we are here on earth we do not have all the answers. All she could say was that God’s plan for us is perfect and everything is unfolding just as it should.
Psalm 139 describes how the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and how He is always there no matter where we go:
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me….I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”
During my years of working as an administrator for a family counselling service, I came across a good number of special people with a passion for helping those who were struggling with life. Two good examples would be Tu and Ti, a couple of Maori blokes with a great sense of humour, who ran the ‘Wilderness Programme’ for “at risk” youth, out of the Genesis Centre in Whangarei. Their programme was a challenging but achievable outdoor experience aimed at building confidence and valuable life skills. It was from Tu and Ti that I learned the meaning of the step pattern found in Maori art, which I had seen on the inside walls of a marae. The steps go up and then down again. I was told that this pattern represents the twelve steps to heaven. Tu was able to explain the ten step version (see below). He and Ti would talk about these steps with the children and use the first three during their time in the programme – to look; to listen; and to listen to the spirit within. The younsters learned to be focused and aware, to follow instructions and to listen to the voice of conscience. The results were good, with children later reporting that they had been able to stand up to peer pressure and to choose to do the right thing in difficult situations. They were told that the choice was theirs whether to continue up the steps as they go through life. Good on you, Tu and Ti, for giving those young ones a vision to strive for and a helping hand up the first few steps to achieving their goal.
Twelve steps to heaven! This brings to mind the twelve step programmes of AA and others. Tu explained that the significance of the steps going down again was that we are not meant to keep our life’s learning and wisdom to ourselves. We are to give back, to share it with others, to use it to help others from love (as the angels do). I can’t help thinking of Jacob’s Dream, in which the angels were ascending and descending on a stairway reaching to heaven.
The important thing is to first have a vision. Without a vision for the future, we make very little progress. A vision (or picture of the future) gives us hope and takes our focus off our problems and the obstacles we might meet along the way. If our dreams are in harmony with God’s vision for our lives, we can trust that He will provide for us every step of the way.
The Ten Steps (as explained by Tu):
- Ka titiro (to look)
- Ka whakarongo (to listen)
- Ka rongowairua (to listen to the spirit within)
- Ka Mohio (to stand in a place of knowing)
- Ka mahinga (to work it)
- Ka orangia (to have it in our life)
- Ka pua nga hua (the fruits of our labour)
- Ka tauira (to stand as a student – become enlightened)
- Ka taura (to stand as a teacher)
- Ka Tutahuhu (our legacy).