"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13, TNIV)I imagine the conversation went something like this:
"Hey, you want to go see the movie?" he asked.
"Sure. Can't wait!" she replied.
They anticipated the opening for weeks. The third installment in the latest Batman trilogy. Young and full of energy, they plan to attend the opening day showing. He buys the tickets on Fandango. They go early and wait in line. Maybe they see some others they know there. Stubs torn in half, popcorn and junior mints and a diet coke in hand, they go in and find their seats. Not too high up, not too close. And in the middle of the row, too.
I don't know what they were thinking about. Maybe school or work or what will happen after the movie. Maybe he's thinking about their future together. Maybe she's thinking about it, too.
But I can assure you that neither of them were thinking about dying.This guy walks into the front of the theater, through an emergency exit, dressed in black. He throws down some kind of smoke and starts shooting.
At first, the couple is confused, wondering if it's a part of the movie somehow. But it only takes a few seconds for the fog to clear - they know this is no show and they realize they are in real danger.
So, this young man, with a long life and a promising future ahead of him, asks his date to dance, and he dances one last time for the woman he loves. This dance is the most intimate kind - even more than sexual intimacy - and one that reflects the greatest kind of love possible. It's a simple two-step where he holds her tightly and positions his body in between his partner and the approaching shrapnel.
Three times. Three times that night, three different 20-something young men embraced three different 20-something young women in this heroic act of bravery. They weren't married to these girls. Did they love them? Every. Single. One. The Bible makes it clear: No one can display a greater act of love than to lay down their lives for someone else.
As I travel with my family, I find that the days we're on the move are the high anxiety days for me. Do I have everyone? Are they all safe? I'm constantly looking around, looking for the suspicious person, looking for acceptable escape routes, looking for ways to protect us. Too much crime-tv, I guess.
I've found a love of snorkeling, and Joshua and I have spent hours in the last few weeks swimming with huge turtles and massive, countless colorful fish. But the whole time we're in the water, I'm also slightly nervous. I constantly scan the underwater horizon. Too many years of 'Shark Week', I guess.
We also spent time in the wilderness - in grizzly bear country - with 800 pound monsters just a few hundred yards away from our unprotected position. We saw them and took pictures. At 35 mph, he could have been on us in seconds. Too many National Geographic specials, I guess.
In a very tragic way, these three young men have given me pause and cause to reflect on myself. Would I put myself in harms way for my family - in between an attacking human or an attacking wild predator? No question about it. I'd do it without hesitation. It would be a natural reflex, and I'd have it no other way.
But the real question is this: Will I lay down my life for them even if the attacks are more...subtle. More disguised.
Will I protect them from my own busyness, from my own ambition, from my own need or selfishness? Even as I write this, Joshua lurks behind me. Twice, he has asked me to play a game. Twice, I've responded, "When I'm finished with what I'm writing." There is a greater danger that I won't protect them from myself, rather than some outside threat.
It is possible to lay down my life for the ones I love and not die a physical death. I am willing to die for them. The more relevant question is: Am I willing to live for them?