Dying for Your Friends

on October 1 | in Stories | by | with No Comments

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.

The couple walks to the front of the church holding their child. She is asleep now (of course she is – it’s day time). They are awake now, every night, rocking her and feeding her and sleeping on the floor beside her crib. The baby’s needs come first.

They have laid down their life.

Behind them walks a friend. She has children, but despite trying for more than two years, has not been able to conceive again. Her grief is hidden behind a beautiful family. What right do I have to grieve, when others cannot have any children? she wonders. Still, it is not easy. She could have chosen not to come that day. Seeing her friend hold her baby is a joyful occasion, but it is also a reminder. She could have stayed home, stayed away. No one would have faulted her.

But she laid down her life, and she came.

Behind all of them, another friend. She has had two miscarriages already this year, the most recent one not a week before this. After the first miscarriage, she told herself it was fate. Bad luck. A lot of women have miscarriages, she told herself. But after the second one, all she can wonder is, Could something be wrong? Yet there she is, hugging her friend, congratulating her on a beautiful baby girl. Stroking the child’s hair and taking in the newborn scent. The pain so recent, her friends were almost surprised to see her there.

But she laid down her life, and she came.

* * * * *

I used to hear this verse and imagine stepping in front of a friend in order to absorb the bullet into my own body. I pictured running into a burning building to save my children and dying so that they could live. While these would obviously be incredible examples of love, I wondered at Jesus’ choice of words: No greater love…Really? No greater love? But I will probably never be in a situation where my literal death saves someone’s life, so does that mean I can never give the greatest love?

Now I realize that there are other ways to die.

Laying aside our pride and congratulating a friend who has accomplished exactly that which we hoped to accomplish. Setting aside our jealousy and celebrating with the person who succeeded where we wanted to succeed. Reaching through our grief to welcome into the world that which we have lost or has escaped our grasp.

The less fortunate celebrating the success.

The woman who cannot conceive, celebrating the child.

The widow celebrating the marriage.

These are all deaths, the laying down of our own wants and desires and dreams. Relinquishing, for a moment, our right to grieve. It is not easy to do. It is not even necessary. But there is no greater love.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.

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