Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have vastly different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives. Paul makes it very clear that we will have our true selves revealed and that once the sins and habits and bigotry and pride and petty jealousies are prohibited and removed, for some there simply won’t be much left. “As one escaping through the flames” is how he put it.

It’s very common to hear talk about heaven framed in terms of who “gets in” or how to “get in.” What we find Jesus teaching, over and over and over again, is that he’s interested in our hearts being transformed, so that we can actually handle heaven. To portray heaven as bliss, peace, and endless joy is a beautiful picture, but it raises the question: How many of us could handle it, as we are today? How would we each do in a reality that had no capacity for cynicism or slander or worry or pride?

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 50

A Badge of Honor

In many cultures, a person is not considered a man or a woman until they have endured certain rites of passage that challenge them much in the way that what you went through challenged you. In these cultures, survivorship is a badge of honor, to be worn with pride. It may be a journey to see yourself as someone who has endured a rite of passage and grown because of it, but you deserve to wear that badge of honor, too.

The ability to reframe trauma as a rite of passage, one that inoculates you and from which you emerge stronger and better, is a common theme among resilient survivors. What happened to you may be completely senseless, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find meaning in the ways we have grown because of what we lived through. You are changed, yes. But it is time now to appreciate and celebrate the person you’ve become since the trauma.

— Alicia Salzer, Back to Life, p. 25-26

God Dependency

God dependency corrects all other faulty dependencies. God keeps us right-size and allows us to go through the ebb and flow of our work day without overreacting. We are able to see our co-workers as separate and equal. We treat them with dignity, and we behave with dignity ourselves. God is our source. We remember that, and it draws everything to scale. We are able to see our true employer as God and our boss as a stand-in. We perform our work well because that is doing God’s will for us. We do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may.

God allows us, too, detachment in our love relationships so that every shift of our partner’s mood is not an indictment of our lovability. As our relationship comes to include God, the ebb and flow of personalities becomes far less personal. We lead our life each day in relationship first to God and then to our partner. We treat our partner with loving courtesy, but those attributes are grounded in our relationship to God. Secure in God, we turn less to our human companions to supply something they are not able to supply. God is the source of our emotional security. That established, we are able to love others with a less-demanding neediness. This is attractive to people. We have an inner compass, a personal gravitational field that circles us back, always, to God. Our partners may love us, but they cannot supplant God for us. We may love our partners, but we cannot supplant God for them. When this is clearly understood, when God is the primary relationship and all others, however cherished, are secondary, then we begin to have right dependency. “Thy will be done” we pray, and we include our relationships within the range of the prayer.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 129-130

Possibilities and Limits

We read books to widen and to deepen our own repertoire, because the performances of others (including fictive others) shed light on our own possibilities and limits. About those possibilities and limits — the self taking form, the figure achieving shape, the shape finally dissolving — we are otherwise, as I’ve said, strangely in the dark, since our education in school seems oddly outward-directed and generic in nature, anonymous even, unattuned to the outgoing private voyage we are making every minute. (The dazed look of students around the globe confirms this: whatever is happening in the classroom, whatever the subject, is distinctly not-me.) In the dark also because of natural incarceration, we are all landlocked creatures, stuck in particular minds and bodies, marooned in our specific time and place; and no matter how much information may come our way by dint of the electronic revolution that puts the world seemingly at our fingertips, only a click away, the austere fact of life is that we live and die within our own shell, doomed to our own perceptual equipment. Our eye can gauge much, but it cannot take the measure of “I.”

Literature is the great bridge that enables us to exit our precincts, that enables other places and other lives to come to us, asking us to “try it on,” “try it out.” Facts, statistics, theorems, and discursive argument address only our reasoning powers. Art operates differently; it is a beckoning mirror. It is, in the poet Baudelaire’s terms, an invitation au voyage. Put differently, literature grows us, and I am especially drawn to the unfurling organic processes in play here: not just the evolution of “characters” but our own move through time and — no less central — our move into the mirror, into the precious virtuality of art. . . . Only the work of art treats us to that richer, pulsating, lived experience of what it might feel like to be there, to have been there, whether coming or going or both.

Art is our second life.

— Arnold Weinstein, Morning, Noon, and Night: Finding the Meaning of Life’s Stages Through Books, p. 7-8

Tender and Vulnerable Joy

In another very unexpected discovery, my research also taught me that there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light. While I was “taking the edge off” of the pain and vulnerability, I was also unintentionally dulling my experiences of good feelings, like joy. Looking back, I can’t imagine any research finding that has changed what my daily life looks like more than this. Now I can lean into joy, even when it makes me feel tender and vulnerable. In fact, I expect tender and vulnerable.

Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees — these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy. In fact, addiction research shows us that an intensely positive experience is as likely to cause relapse as an intensely painful experience.

— Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 72-73

Embracing Detachment

To begin with, I think we have to cultivate our willingness to let go, that is, to detach from the trials and tribulations of our contemporaries if we want to find the quiet peace we long for, a peace that will allow us to truly love, to truly embrace, and to appreciate those who journey with us. In this process, we also give those companions the freedom to grow and to find their own way, thus their own eventual peace too. I don’t think we can come together as loving equals without embracing the willingness to detach.

We live very codependent lives, from my perspective. By this I mean that too many of us let even the whims of others — in our families, our communities, our workplaces, even in other parts of the world — define us, determine how we feel, and then decide what we will do next in many instances. Learning to detach allows us to live the life we were meant to live. By allowing other people’s behavior, good, bad, or disinterested, control us, we miss many opportunities for movement and expression in new directions. The converse is also true: if we attempt to control the other persons on our path, wherever they may reside, keeping them “attached” to us through any means (and most of us are very practiced at this), we immobilize them, thus preventing the growth they deserve and have been prepared for already.

— Karen Casey, Let Go Now: Embracing Detachment, p. 1-2

Going Somewhere

In the Genesis poem that begins the Bible, life is a pulsing, progressing, evolving, dynamic reality in which tomorrow will not be a repeat of today, because things are, at the most fundamental level of existence, going somewhere.

When Jesus tells the man that there are rewards for him, he’s promising the man that receiving the peace of God now, finding gratitude for what he does have, and sharing it with those who need it will create in him all the more capacity for joy in the world to come.

How we think about heaven, then, directly affects how we understand what we do with our days and energies now, in this age. Jesus teaches us how to live now in such a way that what we create, who we give our efforts to, and how we spend our time will all endure in the new world.

— Rob Bell, Love Wins, p. 44-45


Good books instruct me about the world. I learn information; I gain perspective. I get a handle on history or people who have influenced the world. I have more breadth in my thinking — not a clinical detachment, but an involvement of myself so that it translates into my life.

I travel to places I might never visit in any other way except in a book. I solve problems in my life by sharing in the lives of others. I grow spiritually by encountering the wisdom of people who have thought through issues that still cause me to struggle. I share in the adventures of others and widen my own experiences.

— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman’s Heart, p. 26-27