My Lessons from Heaven: Is God Even Real?

Dr. Mary NealBy Dr. Mary Neal4 Minutes

Is heaven actually real? Is God even real?

I’m Dr. Mary Neal, and I hope to answer questions like these as I share with you some of what I experienced when I drowned on a South American river while whitewater kayaking. As we move through the next seven episodes of Strengthen Your Walk, I hope to help you discover how you, too, can come to trust God’s promises, and personally experience God’s tangible presence and love.

Watch My Lessons from Heaven with Dr. Mary Neal

My story with religion began in the 1950s and 60s when I was taken to Sunday school as a child. It was certainly something we did and were expected to do, but I don’t recall anyone ever talking about how what we learned on Sunday could be applied to our life on Monday. I was certainly raised to have integrity, and to be honest and ethical, but as worthy as all that might be, it still misses the mark of allowing God’s truth to radically transform one’s experience of daily life.

When I left for college and medical school, I easily left my childhood faith behind and adopted the somewhat pedestrian belief that faith and science cannot coexist. Although I was a “good” person, I believed, as many people do, that I was too smart, too accomplished, and too self-reliant to need God.

As I moved into my surgical training and afterward, I became too busy to think much about God. I was married, I had a full-time job as the director of spinal surgery at a major university, and I had 4 little kids. At that time, I had not personally known anyone other than patients who had died, and had not suffered any notable challenges in my life other than my parents’ divorce when I was in middle school.

Life was good, God was an abstract concept, and thinking about faith was something that never quite made it to the top of my to-do list.

As I look back on myself, I would say that like so many people, I became a cultural Christian; someone who appreciates the moral foundation that religion provides, and hopes there is “something more” – whatever that means – but not a person who was able or willing to give God much thought or room in daily life.

That all changed for me one day in 1999, when I was whitewater kayaking in a remote part of South America.

After going over a waterfall, my boat and I became pinned under 8-10 feet of water, and I drowned. During my time underwater, I chose to crack open the shell of my invulnerability and open myself, for the first time, to the presence of God’s radical love.

What happened as a result is not only a story filled with God’s grace, continued presence, and miraculous intervention, but it’s a story filled with remarkable hope and insight that begins to shed light on many big questions of faith.

Please join me over the next couple of weeks as I share with you the aspects of my experience that has transformed my hope, or faith, in God’s promises to an absolute and transformational trust; a trust that allows me, and can allow you, to experience the joy-filled life that I believe God intends for each one of us.

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