Saturday, June 22, 2013

To Heaven and Back

I just finished reading the book To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal MD and I feel so inspired I wanted to share.

So I saw this lady on the Katie Couric show about a year ago.  (The only explanation I can give for actually watching the Katie Couric show is that back in my breastfeeding days, I watched a lot of tv while I sat at the pump.  It was hard to hold a book, so tv was the best bet.  And you can only watch so many episodes on HGTV, TLC, or Food Network before you need a break.  So the afternoons sometimes included The Chew, my girl Katie Couric, and/or Dr. Oz.  Don't judge.)  Anyway, the show was about people who have encountered the afterlife: a couple kids (including this guy, who's dad, an evangelical-type preacher, I think might have made up his story) a painter, and this woman Mary C. Neal.

She is a well-educated orthopedic surgeon, a wife, a mother of 4 - basically she seems really solid and credible to me.  And she wrote this book about an experience she had rafting in South America.  After an accident while going over a waterfall, she got pinned underneath it, physically died, and went to Heaven.  She was then told by Heavenly beings, much to her disappointment, that it wasn't her time yet and she was returned to her Earthly body.

Ok.  First: whoa.  And I know some of you might be reading and rolling your eyes like, "whatev - she's lying, that's what's happening in the book."  But I wholeheartedly believe her story and I think you would too if you read the book.  To address the possibility she could be lying, all I have to say is that she doesn't seem to have any motivation to do so, in my opinion.  The majority of the profit from the book has been donated to charity, so it's not monetary.  And she doesn't strike me as a huge narcissist, that is, I don't think she's creating a crazy story because she wants to have an autobiography published. I think she's writing this book because her story is so wild and so unbelievable, she knows it can change people's lives.

And I have to say, I feel my own life changed by it.  It seems sort of cliche and "pop Christian-y," but this book was exactly what I needed to read right now.

Like all Christians, I feel my own faith ebb and flow.  There are times when I feel really good about where I am spiritually, and other times when I feel like God is far away or not there at all.  I think this is quite normal.  And in those times when God is furthest away, while I know I should seek Him even more, like most people, I often don't.

This is probably a good explanation of where I am right now.  I felt so close to God when we were going through the whole song & dance to get pregnant.  And when I actually did become pregnant and give birth to Bates, I knew it was the most precious gift from God and the most abundant answer to prayers I had ever received.  But then I had a newborn and I didn't sleep and there weren't enough hours in the day and I was a hormonal mess and excuse excuse excuse, I became distant from God.

But the crappy part?  I never really went back.  I feel like most of the 16 months of Bates' life have been a spiritual dark place for me.  There were a few glimpses of light (like going through the Deacon experience at our church and mentoring the 9th grade girl through confirmation), but mostly I had put my faith on the back burner.

As God is so faithful, though, He's always been waiting, kindly, for me to return.  I think the Bible study was the first step; gathering with other women who feel pulled in directions other than God because of their kids was such a welcome relief - and such a desired opportunity for accountability.  We all want to return on our God-centered spiritual paths and will help each other get there.

And then I read this book.  In about two days.  I devoured it because it struck a chord in me.  God is real.  Even when He feels far away, He is there and waiting with joy for me to return.  I hate that I had to read a book like this to remind me that God is real.  I mean, really?  How can I question the existence of the one who created me and who has worked miracles in my own life?  But regardless, that's where I was.

And so here is this book.  I really recommend you read it.  Maybe you don't feel like you need a book like this to tell you God is real - but even so, it's fascinating to see what Heaven was like for this woman.  I mean, come on, isn't everyone curious about Heaven and what happens when you die?

She has no agenda other than to share her experience and inspire others.  (Ie, she isn't from a specific denomination nor is she judging or condemning behavior or anything.)  Give it a read - I hope you will - and I hope you will be inspired like I have.

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