“Edge of Tomorrow” was my favorite summer movie of 2014. Not because of the awesome special effects or the sci-fi action sequences. It was a story that was honest about war, about winning, about sacrifice. When Lt. Col. William Cage asks how to win the war against the aliens, the answer is very simple. “You have to die ….every day.”
When Brittany Maynard killed herself last weekend, it hurt me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I don’t know why, but I honestly thought she might change her mind. When she didn’t, I realized all over again just how broken we are as people. As human beings, we don’t have the right to be selfish, to decide our own fate. We think we do; we think we have control because the illusion makes us feel better. But giving in to that illusion misses the point. In life are given choices regarding how to live and sometimes how to die, but our winning and losing is ultimately based on sacrifice. Are we willing to see past ourselves and live (or die) for someone else?
Our bodies — their life, their death — don’t belong to us. They belong to Christ. He bought them. They are not ours to dispose of as we will. They are his, and they exist for His will, and His glory. The scariest part of death is that it often includes suffering, but how we suffer and the way we handle it can speak much louder than simply giving up.
I have to include the issue of abortion here too. People say suicide is the ultimate selfish act, but I wonder if this is entirely accurate. Every time a woman like Leila Josephine or Emily Letts shouts her abortion story from the rooftops, I have to question just how selfless abortion really is. Women like this often say that it’s better for children with birth defects or broken families to die before they are born, that somehow an $800 death requires genuine sacrifice. The real sacrifice is more complicated than that. Giving up your pride, your body, and yes, your life for the next nine months (or even 18 years) asks more of a than than many young people are able to understand. it’s much easier to pay up and take a day off for an outpatient procedure.
This selfish attitude even extends to sex, a casual, often meaningless act that has become individualistic rather than intimate with a focus on one’s own pleasure rather than a shared ecstasy.
The sentiment is expressed in the repeated mantra: “My body, my choice”.
I want to be clear here. I’m not suggesting that every woman who has an abortion does so with intentionally selfish motives. As Theresa Bonapartis said in her letter to the New York Times editor, “No woman joyfully enters an abortion clinic.” The decision itself, however, remains an ultimately selfish choice that only considers one person. This is where the argument from the left is so persuasive. It, like abortion itself, focuses solely on the mother. The left ignores the child while the right is accused of ignoring the mother. Chiaroscuro (the organization I work for) does neither, but focuses on the idea that abortion hurts everyone.
When a woman screams “This is my body!” she means it is hers and hers alone; she refuses to sacrifice her body for the life of another. It reminds me of someone else who said those same words before brutally dying so others could live. A body shattered and destroyed for you, not preserved for myself.
When former coach of NCAA champs the North Carolina State Wolfpack, John Valvano, accepted the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, he could barely walk up to the stage. His body was visibly giving up on him, but he wasn’t giving up on himself. He was sufferinig, but that suffering inspired millions of people. It made a difference to the players he coached and the people who knew him.
And then there are are people like Lauren Hill, a Mount St. Joseph University freshman with terminal brain cancer. Lauren was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma shortly after deciding to play basketball for Mount St. Joseph. Her one dream was to play college ball. This week, that dream came true when she scored the first and last shots of her team’s winning game. While Hill was only on the court for a total of 47 seconds, she made it count.
Stories like Hill’s and Valvano’s are the stories that show suffering matters. It hurts, it sucks, but in our pain, we show other people that the impossible is possible. Suicide, abortion: these are just cop outs, missed opportunities to show the world that life matters.
The truth is, it’s not about me. To win the war “you have to die…every day“. You have to die to yourself and realize that what you want, what you feel, is not as important as your impact on other people. You matter more by understanding that you don’t matter. We have to fight hard to give up our own self interests, because that’s the only way to change the world.