Why I Believe in Purgatory

purgatory
I don't know about Heaven--what it's like, who will be there.  I've read the biblical descriptions and heard people's testimonies, but they mean little to me.  God's having the appearance of jasper and carnelian encircled by a rainbow, sorry, I just don't get it.  It must be symbolic or reflective of something beyond imagining.  Before I was born, if you could have told me what it would be like outside the womb, I wouldn't have gotten that either.
 
What I do know is that Jesus is in Heaven, part and parcel of the incomprehensible glory, yet more familiar, "'like a son of man" even when he towers "with eyes like blazing fire."  As C.S Lewis wrote of  Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnja, he is not a tame lion.  Double ditto for the Lion of Judah.   By whatever title or form Jesus manifests himself, whether meek and mild or downright scary, I want to be with him. 
 
Sort of.
I'm more definite about the alternatives.  Suppose I were to be caught up in some sort of cosmic soul, stripped of whatever I was when alive, then spit out again as, oh, I don't know, a cockroach with vague memories of being a crown prince, or vice versa, because karma begets karma.   I'm sure I don't want to be reincarnated to go through it all again, like having an erection just when you're called to the board to work out an Algebra problem.  No, NFJ (Not For Jeff).  Life has been embarrassing enough.
 
Or suppose the nothingness is just that, no-thing.  I was.  Now I'm not.  The memories others have of me also go to naught.  I could have a monument to honor my accomplishments bigger than Mount Rushmore, but so what?  Because no thing will matter afterwards, there is nothing here that matters now.  I understand how that might give license to have fun for a while.  But to not give a damn about what others think and to do what you want whenever you want is a very hard game to keep up.  You get either as jaded as the Marquis de Sade or bored out of your skull.  You must long for something more unless, of course, you're a sociopath or drugged to the gills.
 
The third alternative is Heaven as a Fantasyland of vanity and insecurities.  God is so far removed, like on another planet, that he doesn't bother me once I'm in the gates.  I can be my own god and get whatever I wish for, like an antebellum mansion and a Cadillac car.  It doesn't take much psychology to figure why some men would want a bevy of virgins around the swimming pool: there’s no danger of being unfavorably compared with the crew of the Starship Enterprise.
 
Finally, there is
Hell.  One must live interminably in what we already know of the worst of this world but multiplied thousands of times over.  Arson is the climate.  Corruption is the culture.  Pleasure is a disease.  The likes of viscous psychopaths are in charge, but they are so much, much better at destruction than their pale earthly counterparts.  Hating each other and themselves, such pleasure left to them is to literally tear you limb from limb.  The Hell of it is, you never lose consciousness; you never die.  Some rock stars say they want to go to Hell, but the only music is hideous laughter at their screams. 
 
My sins undoubtedly deserve all of that, but subjectively I don't think I'm that bad, which means only that untruth constantly entices me and as often as not I choose to believe lies. I don't think God sends people to Hell, but there can come a point at which we've accept so much junk, what is beautiful and pure seems ugly. We become repulsed by God and foolishly choose to be where he isn't.
 
Sensing that, I don't want God to be fair and just and allow my freedom to push me to perdition. I want him to save me from my foolishness. That leaves me longing for Jesus because he took the punishment for my wrongdoing.  So easily said, so hard to appreciate.  The best I've heard it explained is in
Robert Duvall's movie, The Apostle.  Duvall plays a flawed Pentecostal preacher on the lam from the law.  In his last service, police surrounding his clapboard church, he takes a baby from its mother and talks about what it means to be innocent, the only innocent one in a small roomful of people who know they are sinners and hope they are forgiven.   Then he caresses the baby's chubby hands and small feet, describing how driving nails into them is the terrible cost of forgiveness.  
 
To even appreciate a little of the cost or its need requires God's unearned favor.  Grace, as they say.  We understand because he permits us to, and he prepares us only for so much because hearing it all it once would probably drive the weaker ones like me away. The old hymn sung at
Billy Graham Crusades has him taking me "Just as I Am."   But he refuses to leave it at that.  He wants a makeover, a complete makeover, not a nip here and a tuck there with a scalpel, but surgery that requires a cleaver and a meat grinder.  Then there is the rest of my life for him to form the hamburger however he wants.  That process of grace still requires my response, my helping, my striving to become more charitable, more kindly, more loving, to be more like him.  Getting close him, therefore, is a combination of grace and works, and I don't think I've worked hard enough or, as I've said, even wanted to very much.
 
The earliest teachings of the earliest Christians make sense to me.  I can be saved but still need a lot of fixing--a little trip through
Purgatory.  I once heard a Protestant pastor, Jesse Duplantis, talk about his supernatural visit to Heaven. Did it really happen or was he experiencing a bad case of indigestion, I have no way to determine, but I did pick up a distant echo of Purgatory. There are in Heaven, I remember Duplantis saying, people who constantly need to refresh themselves by eating leaves from the tree of life.  The closer they get to the throne of God, the more they need to eat just to keep going.  Others whose lives on earth were holy, need only the escort of Jesus, but when they get very close, they all feel drained by the immensity of God Most High.  He is, after all, infinitely powerful.  It is his divine manifestation in Jesus that keeps the holy ones up.  
 
What that means to me is that perfection wants nothing less than perfection.  Because I fall short, 
Purgatory offers a place to change what I refused to change on earth, to give me the nourishment and discipline to keep moving closer to the heavenly throne.  I can't say as I want Purgatory except, given the alternatives, I accept the need to be cleansed as through fire, maybe with physical pain, maybe not, and maybe "in the twinkling of an eye," whatever a twinkling means in  terms of an eternity that has neither beginning nor end.
 
Thinking this way makes me want to drink heavily and have sex with a 19-year-old who has space between her thighs and not a lot of backstory.   In other words, I'm not very good at thinking this way.  I'm not very good at all.  That's why at night, before I go to sleep, I have a simple minded prayer.
 
"Jesus, if this is my time, please be the one to take me.  No fooling with angels who might be demons and tunnels of light or relatives who kicked the bucket.   Just you.  Unmistakably.  No testing what I'm supposed to know. If it's you, then I know whatever's next will be OK."