When I shared the update link about Brittany Maynard’s death on my Facebook page, I chose not to offer an editorial comment. I wasn’t ready to engage in a debate. In spite of my non-comment, a debate occurred in the comment stream without my prodding. And I’m so glad.
You know what’s so great about debating a topic with someone? It means you’ve stepped away from people in your life that always agree with your opinion. Yes, our opinions may be based on sound theology, but what good is it to preach to the choir?
I experience true growth when I engage in deep, philosophical conversations. I’ve never walked away from an evening discussion about pizza toppings feeling challenged. I like to be challenged. It doesn’t feel warm and cozy to have my opinions questioned by others. But I seek connection.
Connection occurs when we understand people. Our opinions are rooted in our upbringing, our hurts, disappointments, failures, fears and successes. When I find myself disagreeing with someone’s opinion, I try to table the topic momentarily and ease into questions that might reveal how their point of view got established.
The real transformation occurs in my inability to express valid reasons for my belief. Because my mom said so, it’s in the Bible, and it’s the right thing to do can’t be argued in a courtroom much less in a friendly debate.
What experience in my life leads me to my stance? Is that experience healthy, unhealthy, truth, lies? When we share our experiences, the stories that shape our views, and engage and welcome others’ stories, we’re better able to make sense about what we believe.
Are we trying to resolve a hurt? Make right an injustice in our life? Defend God? He doesn’t need a defense team. He seeks to save many lives and our life is on the top of his list. As I’ve grown and matured, meaning I’ve gained insight through experience, the less I want to tell others how to live.
I am not qualified to speak on every issue because it’s not on my personal resume’. I can share my personal experiences and the beliefs that were birthed as a result. And, hopefully, offer another point of view that might reconcile a longing in your heart.
When I catch myself thinking, I wouldn’t do it that way, I stop and say, Exactly. My background and life experiences up to this point direct my decisions. I do things differently than others. When I disagree with someone else’s line of thinking or behavior, I consider four options. I can:
- Speak out in hopes that they align with my way of thinking
- Seek a past experience in my life that could help me better understand their perspective
- Invite them into conversation seeking only to learn more about myself through their situation
- Ask God to give me His insight using the identical situation in my life
For each Bible character, we’re given their brief history, genealogy. Why? So we’ll better understand the basis for their decision-making process. We need to know their weaknesses, shortcomings, blind spots, fears, strengths and sources of pride. They were regular people, like us, and each of their situations completely unique. Sound familiar?
Imagine if the Bible consisted of one event in time, say the release of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. But for 66 books, we read about how different people went about it.
Puh-leeze. Of course they would have gone about the task, each in their own way. And completed it. Or not. But God receives the glory. Not because every decision they made was right. Not because their hearts were pure. Certainly not because they pointed out how stupid the person was in the chapter before them.
God gets the glory whether we give it to him or not. He made us, and the earth, and the universe, and all that is in it. Crazy that he invites us to co-create with him our life and that he’s gentle enough to allow troubles and hardship to penetrate our souls and love people the way he does. God’s experienced it all and invites us into his story to see it from his perspective.
- When close friends lost parents to death, I couldn’t relate and had no idea what to say. Then within four years, my husband lost both of his parents and my mom’s body succumbed to metastasized breast cancer.
- When ladies at Bible study shared about how their kids’ choices up-heaved their family, I couldn’t relate and had no idea what to say. Then we adopted older siblings who had learned to cope and survive without parents.
- When summer camp friends lost loved ones to suicide, I couldn’t relate and had no idea what to say. Then at 12 years old, my Pa-Pa, 72, took his own life.
- When girlfriends suffered a miscarriage, I couldn’t relate and had no idea what to say. Then, when my biological son was five, I grieved the loss of a growing baby inside my womb and would never feel life inside me again.
- When women spoke of female reproductive complications leading to medical procedures, I couldn’t relate and had no idea what to say. Then at 39 years old, after years of painful, debilitating symptoms, I underwent a hysterectomy.
That’s the short list. Prior to any of these events in my life, I carried around formulated ideals based on someone else’s view. Afterward, I share the burden and heartache and relate. I still don’t know what to say. Words don’t relieve pain.
Still one shared experience between two people or even a whole group doesn’t mean that we think alike. I know lots and lots of adoptive parents but what led us to adopt, everything prior to the court date and everything since is unique to each family. We can’t troll around like spammers and post evasive comments. We need to connect. That takes time and energy.
Then there’s the myriad of sinful choices in my life that further affect my opinions and create the framework for my loved ones’ choices and point of view. Oh yes, the invited messy, the added burden on my soul. The bullet points on my kids’ future blog posts. Kick-ass, right?
We’re not always privy to the personal details of one’s life. We don’t have thought bubbles above our heads explaining our reactions to circumstances. We all long for acceptance, understanding, and connection. Debates get us closer than ever. And I’m so glad.
As for Brittany Maynard’s brain tumor, terminal diagnosis, and decision to die with dignity, I can’t relate and I have no idea what to say. Easy decision.