I finished Season 3 of Six Feet Under last week. In one of the episodes that I watched, Claire Fisher’s departed Dad takes her to heaven, or some realm of the afterlife.
In a park in heaven, Claire sees her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Dimas, playing frisbee with his little brother. Gabe’s little brother shot himself in an earlier episode of the series while Gabe and his friend were using drugs. As for Gabe, we did not know what had happened to him up to now. Gabe was engaging in destructive behaviors, and he even robbed a grocery store for beer. At some point, he disappeared.
As Gabe and Claire talk in heaven, Gabe says that he could not handle life, in which he was selfish. In heaven, however, he feels free to give to others. He is even home-schooling his little brother! What I got from what Gabe was saying was that, in life, Gabe was weighed down by so much inward baggage and burdened by outward pressures, that he really could not give to others. In heaven, however, he was liberated from all that, and thus he felt at peace and was free to give.
That reminded me of something that I read by Rodney—-Mere Trinitarianism: C.S. Lewis, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Evangelicalism. Rodney says as he discusses C.S. Lewis’ view on human participation in the Triune God’s greatness:
“Lewis goes on to expand on this idea of participation in ‘The Three-Personal God’: ‘It is only the Christians who have any idea how human souls can be taken into the life of God, and yet remain themselves–in fact, be very much more themselves than they were before.’ In the Bios or natural, we are bundles of self-centered fears, greeds, hopes, self-conceit, and jealousies (‘Let’s Pretend’) but in Christ, (according to ‘Counting The Cost’) God ‘said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him,–for we can prevent Him, if we choose–He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom, and love as we cannot imagine[.]”
Like Gabe Dimas, C.S. Lewis thought that people in this life were weighed down by inward baggage—-self-centered fears, greed, jealousy, etc. Gabe believed that he could only be free from that in the afterlife, where he could truly be himself. Lewis, however, appeared to maintain that we can be on the path to freedom right now, as we participate in the Triune God’s greatness and thus become who we truly are.
I agree with Gabe Dimas and C.S. Lewis that I am a victim of inward baggage and outward pressure. I don’t think that the solution is to forsake this life in favor of an afterlife, however, because we’re in this life for a reason. Perhaps this life prepares us for the afterlife by allowing us to mature in character, or it makes us long for a realm of righteousness and goodness, and that longing makes us better people in the here-and-now. Does embracing evangelical Christianity provide people with a foretaste of heaven—-the sort of thing that Gabe Dimas experienced in the afterlife? It can. It does for many people. Others enjoy happiness through other paths, such as twelve-step programs, or other religions. In my case, things are messier. Simply believing in doctrines does not make my life a bed of roses. Giving is something that I struggle to learn and to do, but, hopefully, I’m growing.