You will always exist
What does it mean to be immortal? That we are each immortal is an essential aspect of the teachings of Christian Science, and I confess I’ve struggled to understand the concept.
To be honest, I’ve often tried to reason it out with a certain brainy logic, intellectually accepting immortality as a sort of metaphysical goal—something I need to come to through a special set of human virtues. Then, goes my human reasoning, if I work hard enough I’ll finally get it right—like a math problem. But this kind of thinking always leads to the same incorrect conclusion: Immortality is for saints or sci-fi characters. Eternal life? Nice idea, but not for the average Joe.
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So one day this past winter, in the middle of a school-canceling blizzard, I was surprised by a wholly unbidden vision regarding immortality that illuminated the truth about God, immortal Life, in a new way.
On this snowy Tuesday afternoon, steeped in a sense of dread and impending gloom, I parked myself on the couch. I had never before felt this sort of despair for the world. I just wanted a break from the onslaught of news about human loss: school shootings, abuse, hate, anger, war. But as I lay there in my after-school slump, a brilliant, loving presence flooded the atmosphere, and I became aware of a kind of gathering of angels.
These “angels” weren’t feathery beings but spiritual intuitions, turning me toward the unmistakable awareness of limitless Life—Life that is spiritual, present, and complete; Life that never ends.
I sat up. Suddenly, I thought of individuals I’d loved and admired: a great Sunday School teacher, my mother, my father, relatives, artists, great healers and thinkers, friends, other family members—those who had once lived on earth, or those still living their lives on earth, in paths of goodness and love. And in the silence of my living room with the snow swirling hard outside the window, I felt the peace and timelessness of deathless good.
In the silence of my living room, I felt the peace and timelessness of deathless good.
Until this happened, I hadn’t been aware of how insistently a low-level sense of loss had been playing in the background of my life. Now it was clear that I had been accepting mortality and its limitations as inevitable, and had let this belief go unchallenged for many years. This unexpected new view of divine Life and Love, like a fierce dawn zooming across the sky, rebuked my dark thinking. I realized during those illuminating moments, without a single doubt in my mind, that those I loved and thought I’d lost were still loving—still expressing God, divine Love—right now.
Furthermore, those lost to tragedy for whom the world is grieving—those killed in shootings, victims of war, and many others—were continuing to express Love, too. I felt reassured that love and goodness are immortal and unconfined and keep on blessing us all right now, because, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “God is divine Life, and Life is no more confined to the forms which reflect it than substance is in its shadow” (p. 331).
For a few brief moments, I understood, beyond mere human reasoning, that Life can never be extinguished. Life is God. Life is a timeless presence, undying and immortal. As God’s children, we reflect this Life. I hadn’t expressly prayed for this insight. It filled me first with a kind of stunned awe, then hope, then clarity, then joy and gratitude. I got up from the couch and felt like dancing!
Wow, I thought. Maybe this was how Peter, James, and John felt when Jesus took them up to the top of that mountain, and Moses and Elias showed up (see Luke 9:28–36): “He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias.”
Seems to me those disciples would have sensed the meaning of immortality in those moments.
After my humbling experience, I wanted to understand more about eternal life, so I sought further guidance from the Christian Science pastor: the Bible and Science and Health. That week’s Bible Lesson from the Christian Science Quarterly was titled “Mortals and Immortals” and featured the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from death (see John 11:1–44), offering much food for thought. This compelling, radical demonstration of Life as completely and utterly independent of matter was designed to remove doubt, discouragement, and grief from the folks who witnessed this event.
Lazarus had died, and been buried for four days. Jesus brought him back. Science and Health explains: “Jesus said of Lazarus: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.’ Jesus restored Lazarus by the understanding that Lazarus had never died, not by an admission that his body had died and then lived again. Had Jesus believed that Lazarus had lived or died in his body, the Master would have stood on the same plane of belief as those who buried the body, and he could not have resuscitated it” (p. 75).
I sat for a long moment and thought about this, until the truth registered with me that Lazarus had never died; his immortality was not, had never been, some vague possibility, but was the reality of his being. And this is just as true now for you and me as it was for Lazarus. We will always exist. We can’t help it. Whatever would appear to obscure or annihilate our pure spiritual identity—be it loss, depression, sin, disease, death—is a fable, an illusion.
Oh, sure, as long as we still “believe” in these things, they seem real. Things hurt. We feel loss, sadness, and despair. But these beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with our real spiritual being or with Truth. And as we recognize this, our human lives naturally become more peaceful. We express more health, calm, joy, and buoyancy; a greater sense of security, beauty, true friendship, purpose, and goodness. We experience and feel the immortal Love that is embracing us.
It’s humbling and astonishing to stop believing in death, even for a few seconds.
It’s humbling and astonishing to stop believing in death, even for a few seconds. Imagine doing this definitively, the way Jesus did—seeing your timeless place in the universe of spiritual ideas and endless Life, and beholding this for others as well. And even though we are all working out plenty of things on this human plane of existence, we can feel confident that every action that reflects divine Love—every effort to inspire, heal, and bless—is timeless, ageless, and eternal. Nothing can stop this or take away Life. Nothing can prevent Life. Nothing can contain it. That’s one courage-inducing state of being.
Moreover, we don’t realize our immortality by plodding ponderously through mortality, trying to make it better. Mortality is not perfectible, and immortality is not a finish line waiting at the end of a mortal existence. We come naturally and gracefully to the truth of man’s immortal life through revelation—a recognition of the one, ever-present Christ, Truth. And whether you call it the Christ or not, when you feel it, you know it, and that’s what matters. It’s the revelation that matters. Science and Health states that “Truth is a revelation” (p. 117), and Truth speaks to us and heals us in the most unexpected and reassuring ways.
In fact, if that angel message I heard that day on the couch had been sitting next to me, speaking to me like a friend, I think it might’ve said something like this: “Honey, you are more than your human life. Everyone is. You are so much more than your happy or unhappy human history. You will always be, so you might as well get going and live the foreverness of good. It will unloose the limits that have bound you and others. It will banish loss and grief. It will energize your everyday activities and bring fresh purpose to your life.” That angel message might have just sung out this verse from a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal:
Trust the Eternal, and repent in meekness
Of that heart’s pride which frowns and will not yield,
Then to thy child-heart shall come strength in weakness,
And thine immortal life shall be revealed.
(William P. McKenzie, No. 359)