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Your sliding doors moment

It’s foggy. You’re barefoot, bewildered and strangely light on your feet. There’s a choir singing somewhere up ahead, so you put one foot in front of the other and walk towards the singing.

You waft away the thick mist and the wrought iron gates are picked out with a Vegas-style neon sign. The flashing arrow heralds your arrival: ‘Welcome to Heaven’.

You join a long queue. The elderly man on the gate is not the quickest. You shuffle forward, watching the bearded gent as he signs people in.

It’s the same routine for everyone. He asks the person for their name and checks his list.

There seem to be three options. Most are nodded through the left gate, disappearing silently into the cloud. But occasionally, the old man ushers someone to the right and there’s a fanfare of trumpets, an Alleluia chorus, with the person granted an angelic guard of honour.

Oh, but hang on, there seems to be a third option. You watch as the old man checks his list and the person’s name isn’t on it. An argument ensues. You can’t hear the exact words but there seems to be a strong difference of opinion. The person snatches the list off the old man to check for herself.

There’s some remonstrating before security Cherubs arrive and the person is forcibly removed. You watch them being bundled into a lift, the ‘down’ button is pressed, and you wince. You and your fellow queuers look around nervously. The alternative to Heaven doesn’t bear thinking about.

Suddenly, even the atheists are praying that their name is on that list!

Eventually, it’s your turn. You’re face-to-face with the impossibly old man, whose name badge says ‘St Pete’. It’s a very big moment. You decide against having nervous banter with the guardian of the eternal galaxy, choosing to offer your full name and date of birth.

There’s a pregnant pause while the ancient man runs a bony finger down his list. He flicks to page two and you can’t help yourself. The silence is deafening. You just have to speak. ‘I’ve noticed that most go left,’ you blurt. ‘But a few turn right and get the full guard of honour treatment.’

The old man looks up at you. ‘And?’

‘And I was wondering what it all means?’ you manage to splutter.

‘Potential,’ says the old man, his eyes twinkling. ‘On the day of your birth, you have vast potential. The boss, He maps out a vision of who you could become.’

‘Like Santa’s nice list?’ you joke.

St Pete sighs. ‘The boss has an algorithm. Nice is a small part of it, but it also factors in whether you’ve lived life to the fullest. Taken a few risks, played to your strengths, made a difference, lived by a decent set of values… basically, have you squeezed the maximum out of the time He’s given you. Or have you played small?’

You gulp, as the ancient gatekeeper continues.

‘About 98% of people in this queue are on my list, but haven’t pulled up any trees, so to speak. Nice, for sure. But they have untapped potential. We let them in, and they turn left. They lived a ‘perfectly fine’ earthly life, so we grant them a ‘perfectly fine’ eternity.’

‘And what about those who turn right?’ you ask.

All of a sudden, the old man’s eyes twinkle and his wrinkles etch into a grin. ‘The ‘2-percenters’ as we call them up here. They’re exceptional. They’ve lived up to their potential. So whatever it said on day one, they’ve achieved or exceeded it. They’ve made things happen. They’ve bounced back from adversity. They’ve inspired others by their example. They’ve lived in the upper reaches of their ‘best self’ spectrum. They might not be rich or famous, but my goodness, the earthly world will miss them.’

‘And they turn right?’

Pete nods. ‘They lived their best earthly life so the boss grants them the best possible eternity.’

The old man’s eyes turn back to the list, looking for your name. ‘Gotcha,’ he says.

And here’s where our story ends.

Good news – you’re in! (Phew!)

Whether you’re one of the 98% who turn left, or the fanfared 2-percenters is up to you.

Dr Andy Cope