Dying For Your Friends

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.

15 Replies to “Dying For Your Friends”

  1. Having known many friends in the same position, this is a very poignant example. I cannot think of many that are emotionally greater.

    The closest I have come to hearing a physical modern day example was a particular church softball game. It started to hail with VERY large balls of ice and no cover to be found. The men left the field to shield their wives who were watching. No one was killed, but many of the men dropped unconscious.

  2. I was reminded of this as I was reading. “We love because He first loved us.” When we really come to understand this…it takes precedence over even our circumstances. We are able to celebrate with others despite what we might be struggling with. Thanks.

  3. Wooh! Shawn is kickin’ it up a notch this week! “There are other ways to die.” That line jumped out and punched me in the gut. Not looking forward to learning more about that one but I’m not sure there is much of a choice if I want to live a good life.

  4. For 8 weddings and 4 baby showers I celebrated and laid down my life the first year after my husband died.

    “The widow celebrating the marriage.”

    It was devastating to celebrate these events. Now, over 2.5 years after his death, I realize the damage that I did by attending those weddings and celebrating those births. At the time, I was being strong, putting on my face, hoping that they would not face the same fate as myself.

    Now I need to say no, to use that “widow card”. Just yesterday I RSVP’d No to my cousin’s wedding. I went to every single cousin’s wedding, but this one, I will not attend because I finally have the strength and peace of mind to say no. To know that she loves me even though this time I can’t mentally attend. That I need to, for the sake of myself, support her from afar.

    Being there in person is good and noble, but sometimes you need to take care of yourself before greater damage is done. While I don’t blame any of those people I now know that putting on that strong face to support them was traumatizing to me in a way I never expected.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Brenda. I was actually thinking of you (among others) when I wrote “it’s not even necessary” toward the end of the post.

      I don’t think by any means this falls into the “commands” category in the Bible, but I think your comment, about how painful this process can be of laying down our own life, reinforces that there is no greater love. There is a kind of death involved in this type of love.

      Something else your comment brings to mind is that there are seasons to life. I pray that sometime in the future you will once again be in a place where you can do what you once did. In the mean time, I wish nothing but healing and grace for you.

      Thanks Brenda. I always appreciate your perspective.

  5. Dude, Shawn. This brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written. Brenda’s comment also brought tears to my eyes.
    Wow. It’s hard to fathom.

    I’ll be thinking about this for the rest of the day now.

  6. Again, just lovely. Speaking from the viewpoint of someone who can’t conceive, I agree that sometimes it is just so hard to “[Reach] through our grief to welcome into the world that which we have lost or has escaped our grasp.” And there’s times where it has been so easy that I just know my strength and true happiness comes from the Lord. I’m grateful to my friends for understanding the bit of sadness that is mixed with my overwhelming joy.

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