Verse 18: “I am the first and the last, and I am the living one; I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
What is Hades? In mythology, Hades represents the underworld, the realm of darkness, of death and rebirth. The concept of Hades was extended into the idea of hell. Collective thinking associates hell with death, wrong living, damnation, and misery. Instead of a theological exploration of what hell is or isn’t, I’d like for us to reflect on experiences we consider hellish.
What are the states of consciousness, the situations, or body experiences where you have felt or currently feel trapped, lifeless, tormented or punished?
Our experiences of “hell” usually involve feeling helpless, despondent, lethargic or chaotic, scattered, and crazy. Internally, these are places where bits of our Self are lost. We lose access to energies in these bits of Self when we deny, repress, dismiss, toss aside, or squash the emotions and body sensations that bring them to consciousness.
We, with our egos, typically defend against the feelings that signal the descent into a loss of Self. Our ego alone cannot transform the hellish in our nature that causes us to feel dead. However, God Within knows how to take us in and out of the places where we lose connection to our Selves. When we consciously relate to God Within, our larger Self flows with the intelligence of who we are as a child of God. We can go in and out of our personal hells by following Jesus’ example.
Church tradition says Jesus went into hell to minister to those who were there. To minister means to serve and to aid needs. The needs may be physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual. When I think of ministering to others on any plane, I see images of compassionate presence, which manifests in acceptance of and care for the other.
The power of compassionate acceptance is undeniable. We know from research that part of what makes an event traumatic is the experience of bearing it alone. When another person is actively present in a caring way during the event or in the re-experiencing of an event emotionally, it makes a positive difference. We need each other to metabolize and integrate our experience. The outer experience of another being present to us activates our ability to be present with our self in a compassionate way. We move out of our personal hells by extending compassionate presence to all within us.
Compassionate presence is the first step in ministering. To integrate the bits of self, which show up as emotions, sensations, images, impulses, and desires, we have to minister to our selves. Our active compassionate response to all that arises within us changes our experience in the present moment. We become more whole, more centered, and more grounded. We experience the energy of our psyche/soul where we have felt lifeless, helpless, and despairing. We can move out of our personal hells by following the energy of God Within instead of defending against our felt experiences.
Where is it easy for you to extend compassion to yourself? Where do you leave yourself in hell with self-condemnation and self-hatred? Take a few deep breaths and feel the connection to God that flows into you through your breath. Ask God Within to show you how to minister to all parts of yourself. Begin by compassionately greeting and relating to whatever shows up today.