Looking ahead to Sunday’s Transfiguration and the disciples’ awe-filled witness to the glory of God revealed in Christ, I have been thinking about religious experiences; extraordinary revelations of the divine. I occasionally wonder if I was “done out of” a heavenly vision when I flatlined once in an operating theatre and noticed nothing out of the ordinary; but maybe such ingratitude misses a vision of the kingdom of heaven that is already to hand …
If my soul was untethered, then it was too far gone in sleep to know it. I only learned of my dance with death in the recovery room, where I came back cold, so much colder than I had ever felt in my life. My only intimations of a world beyond my own cold bones came from a heated blanket, and another, wrapped around by a nurse who swaddled me as though I were her child. They came from the awkward, hurried prayers of a friend, holding hands at the bedside as though it were not strange for us to meet this way.
In other words, heaven was brought near to me not by any out of body experience, but by the earthy and earthly mediation of loving bodies, moving in and out of my field of vision, in a white and stainless steel temple devoted to the merciful care of all who might pass by.
Almost as though the love of God could be clothed in flesh, stained and sagging, unilluminated, and glorious.