PETALUMA, CA, August 8, 2016 – “It doesn’t matter if they nearly died in an auto accident or a drug overdose, giving birth or attempting suicide,” writes Jeffrey Long, M.D. in a recent Washington Post opinion piece, referring to the thousands of people who have shared their experiences on his Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) website. “The report is often the same: They come back with a profound understanding of God’s love.”
Despite the diverse personal, cultural, and religious backgrounds of these individuals, the accounts they share are remarkably consistent:
“No human can ever love with the love I felt in that light. It is all-consuming, all-forgiving,” wrote one “NDEr,” as those who have had a near-death experience are often called. “Nothing matches it.”
“I felt God as an all-encompassing presence – complete, total, and unconditional love in its highest form!” wrote another.
“The entire encounter was about God, the ultimate power of God, and God’s forgiveness,” wrote yet another. “The message was, ‘Love is the greatest power in the universe.’”
This is pretty profound stuff. Too bad these people had to go through such a harrowing experience in order to see it. Or did they?
The answer to that question is, as they say, above my pay grade. There is evidence, however, indicating that there are plenty of people who have garnered equally profound insights about the nature of divine love without coming so close to dying.
Take, for example, my friend Susie.
A few years back, she suddenly lost the use of both her legs and was unable to control her bodily functions. Rather than seek medical help, she decided to call a friend of hers who was accustomed to praying with others as a way to deepen their understanding of God. “One of the biggest lessons I learned through this experience was to listen wholeheartedly to God, and not to stop listening until I felt God’s love for me,” she writes in a published account.
Her persistence paid off. Within about three months, she was completely healed, traveling from her home in Texas to take care of her grandchildren in New York.
What distinguishes this and so many other stories like it that I’ve either heard or read over the years, is the connection my friend makes between feeling God’s love and her physical recovery. “I prayed to realize that God loves me, that God and I coexist, and that I am entirely spiritual – in fact, that the truth of my being is that I reflect only God, divine Mind,” she writes. “I began to see myself in terms of living right now as a spiritual idea of God.”
Imagine what it must feel like to live “right now as a spiritual idea of God.” Not later on. Not after dying or almost dying, but right now. This is not to suggest that my friend’s insight and subsequent healing is any better than anyone else’s, only that it’s not something any of us have to wait for.
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Referring to St. John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” – a vision of God’s ever-presence and all inclusive love that he had well before death – Christian theologian Mary Baker Eddy writes, “This is Scriptural authority for concluding that such a recognition of being is, and has been, possible to men in this present state of existence, – that we can become conscious, here and now, of a cessation of death, sorrow, and pain.”
Even if we think that we’re not quite up to St. John’s level in terms of spiritual perception, that doesn’t mean we’ll forever be deprived of such an insight, or that we shouldn’t expect to see – “sometime and in some way,” as Eddy suggests – less sorrow and pain in our lives.
Maybe even sooner than later.
Eric Nelson writes about the link between consciousness and health from his perspective as a practitioner of Christian Science. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs. Continue the conversation on Facebook.