Well, mine, isn’t it? Don’t I have that right? Don’t I live in a country where I have unalienable rights? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or so said Thomas Jefferson. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Thanks, Tom.)
He was right, wasn’t he? Uh, uh, uh…hold that thought and let me know what you’ve decided when we’re done.
Christians in this great country have recently been thrown into the very heated deep end of a very deep pool, in a debate about rights. More than any other country in the world, we clutch our rights, smothered to our chests, as we would an infant, or, more precious, possibly our salvation. We don’t let go of those rights without a decisive fight. The right to choose, the right to learn what and where we want, to drive as we want, the right to a good job and a nice home. The right to worship freely. The right to eat what we want. To spend or save our money. The right to disagree. It’s a part of my default setting, culturally. Isn’t it yours too?
Walk with me, as we wade into the living streams of others’ lives. Lives that suddenly change without their permissions from serenely busy but predictable (like yours and mine) to a class VI white water rapid, where people are heartlessly and without warning, launched into treacherous water. And die. They are decidedly and irreverently thrown off their feet. Lovely stories. Heartbreaking, soul breaking, and spirit breaking. I’ll interweave thoughts on three different books I’ve read recently, all with the same theme. Two are true stories of recent events and one is a work of fiction, all about each one’s right. To die.
The first thing that strikes me about each life is that each person certainly has a life worth living – JoJo Moyes fictional character, Will Traynor, is a young business tycoon whose life is framed in extreme sports, vacations, and relationships – he has the means and the drive to do it all. X-Master of the Universe. But, wait a minute, he’s a fictional character, so he doesn’t really count, does he? Consider the influence that this book has had. 5 million copies sold in 9 countries, rights sold to MGM for a movie to be released next year, and a sequel due in September. (Me Before You, JoJo Moyes, Penguin Book 2012)
Susan Spencer-Wendell, a journalist, mother of three, adored by her husband, with a strong circle of friends and influence. She’s travelled the country, and the world, and would do anything to be that better person. Better wife. Better writer. Better mother. Better friend. Better at the 24 Bikram yoga poses and marathon running. Who wouldn’t want to be her bestie? (Until I Say Goodbye, Susan Spencer-Wendell, Harper 2014)
Kara Tippetts, soulful, joyful, a blogger, believer, church planter, wife and mother of 4 young children. She moves to Colorado Springs and is forced to evacuate her new home 10 short days after moving, chased by the maelstrom of the Waldo Canyon fire. Kara, young, wildly in love with her family, friends, and Jesus. (The Hardest Peace, Kara Tippetts, David C. Cook, 2014)
Will, a quadriplegic after being hit walking across a street by a motorcycle; prognosis: terminal. Susan, diagnosed at 47, with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, prognosis: terminal. Kara, diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months after moving to start a new life; prognosis: terminal. All facing the suffocating pain of death masked in the specter of a Goliath, who leers at them, an undeniable obstacle of dread, fear, and promised pain.
Kara said it best, “Who is this Jesus, and what does He have to do with my dying?” Is this really then about dying, or about the right to die?
Think of all the thoughts you’ve had, just reading through this. Put yourself in their places. Really. Pick one person, spend 5 minutes thinking about one life, and put yourself there. And, if you are able, I want you to think about the words that were shared on Sunday, July 5th. Luke 6: 37 “Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” These words, so familiar, so oft heard. When I really stop to think about these three simple sentences, it’s an uncomfortably tight fit spiritually. With no wiggle room for the demands of my rights. Hold that thought. I’ll be back to hear what you have to say, in Part II.
Anne E. Steinbroner is an avid reader, writer, and listener, who is still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. She loves to run and ride her bike really fast, even when no one is chasing her. She enjoys baking for others – one of her love languages. If God had data usage plans, she would choose the unlimited plan, talking to God. Knowing He’s listening. She gets super grossed out by snails and worms, but then, who doesn’t?