by Don Rodgers
We had just completed packing the car in preparation for an early morning departure for a two-week vacation. When morning came and I awoke, I found myself reliving a dream that surpassed in clarity, meaning, and emotional impact anything I had ever experienced. As I slept, I was transported into the company of all the saints, and although I experienced no direct contact with any specific individual, I had the distinct feeling that I was in the company of the great “Cloud of Witnesses” who provide the feel of truth and reality to the Christian story—among them Evelyn Underhill. To be in such company was sheer ecstasy. I remember feeling that I wanted nothing but to enjoy my association with these greats and to bask in the unbelievable joy of this association. All too soon, it was over and I was awake with a memory that I hope will never fade.
As I relived my experience, I thought of Paul’s experience of being caught up into the third heaven and his description of death as dropping the tent of clay, to be clothed in a garment of eternal life. I wondered about the nature of existence without a physical body, about the nature of development or growth in a nonphysical, nonmaterial setting; and I recognized that over time I had allowed the great thoughts and words of the saints to obscure what Evelyn Underhill refers to as “suggestion.” which creates sensitivity to the things of the Spirit that prompt contemplation, belief, faith, and Christian practice. I realized that such “suggestion” was planted in my thought by my mother, grandmother, and early church school teachers. Surely, I had received a glimpse of life unencumbered by a physical body, and I must use that experience to help me understand more completely the life I now live, and the nature of the next phase of my journey.
It was as if I had been presented with a dual screen on which my total existence was depicted; on one screen I saw my life as it is lived in time and space on planet earth; on the other, I saw life in the company of all those who have passed beyond the physical existence that I experience as the life of today. With this picture before me, I saw my earthly existence as a two-dimensional life, what Evelyn Underhill has described as an amphibious existence. On one level I was moving and acting, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling; on another, I was feeling, desiring, hoping, wanting, aspiring, liking, disliking, loving, hating. And it seemed clear that as long as my body continued to perform the functions I expected of it, this two-dimensional life would continue. But, when the body no longer responds to my mind and will, and finally ceases to respond all together, all of those bodily functions will cease, and the body will decay and be absorbed into the earth. At this point, I could envision seeing myself as I really am: feelings, desires, hopes, wants, aspiration, likes, dislikes, loves, hates—and these affections transcend the limitations of my physical existence! What, then, is the nature of the beings I encountered in my vision and will someday myself share?
Each person I encountered is, I concluded, the constellation of affections unique to that individual. And the love of God integrates and focuses these affections to mold each individual into the eternal beings that were created to be. God offers himself as the source from which our affections spring and in this offering joins himself intimately with each human soul. How rapidly we progress toward God’s intention for us, and how nearly we approach that perfection depends upon the intensity of our desire and commitment to fulfill God’s will and plan for us.
I feel blessed by this experience, which has opened for me new vistas of thought and provided new ground for understanding.