Dr. George G. Ritchie, a psychiatrist who, as a young man at Camp Barkeley in Texas, "died" for nine minutes during a horrible bout of pneumonia and claimed to have been shown the afterlife by none other than Jesus. You discern. We wrote about him a while back and feel compelled to revisit aspects we could not focus upon back then, for the experience was powerful at many unexplored levels.
When he saw Jesus, wrote Dr. Ritchie, it was a far more masculine power than he expected, not the meek image so often presented to us through artwork and yet at the same time a Presence filled with "astonishing love."
"A love beyond my wildest imagining," wrote the psychiatrist.
It's that love -- often such an alien concept to masculinity -- that we want to focus upon.
"This love knew every unlovable thing about me -- the quarrels with my stepmother, my explosive temper, the sex thoughts I could never control, every mean, selfish thought and action since the day I was born -- and accepted and loved me just the same," recounted Dr. Ritchie.
"Every detail of twenty years of living was there to be looked at. The good, the bad, the high points, the run-of-the-mill. And with this all-inclusive view came a question. It was implicit in every scene and, like the scenes themselves, seemed to proceed from the living Light beside me: "What did you do with your life?"
That was the main thing Jesus wanted to know. That was the "bottom line" of accomplishments. How would we respond?
The question could also be phrased: what did you accomplish with the precious time you were allotted, those passing earthly moments, notes the psychiatrist -- who after his experience founded the Universal Youth Corps.
What was lasting in your life? What was important?
What was done with purity -- the purity of selfless love?
What have we done for God and the glory of Heaven instead of ourselves?
Those are questions, says Dr. Ritchie (in a dynamite little book called Return from Tomorrow), that are on God's Mind. It seemed to Dr. Ritchie, who ended up practicing medicine in Richmond, Virginia, that it was more a question about values, not facts.
"What have you done with your life to show Me?"
For many, our accomplishments will be with children, friends, and family.
"He wasn't asking about accomplishments and awards," said Ritchie. "The question, like everything else that came from Him, had to do with love. How much have you loved with your life? Have you loved others as I am loving you? Totally? Unconditionally?"
He saw his life from infancy up -- the way he related to others, those he had spurned, hundreds, thousands of scenes, "all illuminated by that searing Light, in an existence where time seemed to have ceased.
"It would have taken weeks of ordinary time even to glance at so many events, and yet I had no sense of minutes passing," says the doctor.
There was the time he turned away as his stepmother leaned over to kiss him. There was the time he flew into a rage at a three-year-old who broke his model airplane. There were episodes from high school years -- dates, exams, running the fastest mile in his school, graduating into the University of Richmond.
And there was also that constant question: What did you do with your life?
As he reviewed his life with the Lord, said Dr. Ritchie, what he was shown was a wholly new perspective and "an endless, shortsighted, clamorous concern for myself." When he mentioned that he had been an Eagle Scout, for example -- trying to indicate a good deed -- the Lord dismissed this seemingly worthy achievement by saying, "That glorified you."
When they reviewed his religious practices, Ritchie was shown that those practices had turned routine with a smugness and self-esteem that made him think he was better than others because he never missed a Sunday, when he was not praying sincerely.
What else had he done with his life?
It got tough.
"I started to point out my pre-med courses, how I was going to be a doctor and help people," recalled Dr. Ritchie. But visible alongside the classroom scenes were the material rewards he looked forward to as a result of his profession -- "that Cadillac car and that private airplane, thoughts as observable as actions in that all-pervading light."
It was not good enough. Christ saw everything -- from every perspective.
In a way, said the psychiatrist, it was like arriving at a final exam and discovering that he was going to be tested on a subject he had not studied.
How was he to know, he cried in his mind? How could he have prepared?
"I told you by the life I lived," came back the words from Jesus. "I told you by the death I died. And if you keep your eyes on Me, you will see more..."
The love that came from Jesus was like nothing Ritchie could describe. Others say the same. The Lord was not judgmental but rather displaying the Truth of the Light.
We will all enter that Light, and we will all see our lives in review. We will all feel the incredible kindness of Jesus yet also His strength. "Far more even than power, what emanated from this Presence was unconditional love," said Dr. Ritchie, to repeat.
It was a selfless love. It was a pure love that we are to emulate. It was putting God above everything and everyone and as the goal of every action. This is the key to Heaven!
This is what elevates us.
This is how we all "levitate."
And what we seek to rise toward is the Being of Jesus -- Who, as Dr. Ritchie found, is different than we think in the way of goodness, in the way of selflessness, and certainly in the way of what love brings: power.
"This was the most totally male Being I had ever met," noted Dr. Ritchie in his splendid little memoir. "If this was the Son of God, then His Name was Jesus. But... this was not the Jesus of my Sunday school books.
"That Jesus was gentle, kind, understanding -- and probably a little bit of a weakling. This Person was power itself, older than time and yet more modern than anyone I had ever met."
resources: Return from Tomorrow