Worth Dying For? Lessons from the Arizona Tragedy

By now, everyone knows as much as there is to know about the horrific mass murder in Arizona, where deranged gunman Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in […]

By now, everyone knows as much as there is to know about the horrific mass murder in Arizona, where deranged gunman Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the back of the head at point-blank range and killed six others, as the Congresswoman stood in front of a grocery store having a townhall meeting with her constituents.

Federal Judge John M. Roll, the Congresswoman’s Director of Outreach Gabe Zimmerman, nine-year old student council president Christina Taylor Green, 76 year old retired construction worker Dorwan Stoddard, 76 year old retired secretary Dorothy Morris, and 79 year old Phyllis Schneck all lost their lives that day.  In his most soul-stirring speech to date, President Obama eulogized these victims so beautifully, and with his words, he stood in the schism of America, reaching for both the Left and Right hands to unite this country despite and because of tragedy.  But these people are still dead, Congresswoman Giffords is still in the hospital, shot through the brain. And the existential questions still remain: for what? And why?

For those on the outside of the tragedy grieving in, one of the hardest parts is pondering the “why” of it.  A baby, though, God? Why her? Why these six? And why were thirteen others who were wounded spared?  Why did one who was shot in the head through the entire left side of the brain miraculously survive while another shot in the head died? Who else would’ve been out in front of that grocery store with the Congresswoman but for some other interceding event, and who was in front of that store because of some interceding event?  The useless questions of the helpless trying to make sense of the senseless.

For me, uselessness piled on top of uselessness, and it wasn’t long before my mind was stuck on a work of fiction, a movie, that somehow always lets itself into the corners of my mind every time I’m running late, or I return to my apartment for something I left.  My mind floats to the most powerful scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where Brad Pitt’s omniscient character lists a series of small events that led to a life-altering conclusion. He narrates, “Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. ….If only one thing had happened differently”:

“…but life being what it is, a series of intersecting lives and incidents out of anyone’s control,” it happened to these people. Jared Loughner happened to these people. And it could happen to us.

Sick people kill people everyday of the week, somewhere in the world . You can be at the wrong place at the wrong time and get caught by stray bullets; it is certainly not uncommon in D.C., or other cities. Granted, you can also jog down the street, make one foul step, and be hit by a bus, or collide with a semi-truck, or meet any other sort of accidental death. There’s no rule that says there must be some rhyme or reason to it, no set formula for how we’ll go, only that we will, indeed, go.

But in times like these, what really fascinates me is the mind of the people who knowingly and willingly choose a career where their lives are in danger. Our soldiers come home everyday with flags draped over them. Police officers, firemen and women, they knowingly put their lives on the line for the safety and welfare of others every single day. Brave politicians like Gabriel Giffords, even in the midst of death threats, come out to street corners to meet with their constituents with the honorable goal of directly influencing the lives of everyday people.

These positions are often thankless jobs.  You can work your hair white the best way you know how with a sincere goal of helping as many people as you possibly can, and still receive nothing but criticism and little appreciation for it. You can literally fight in defense of this country and still wind up lining the streets of our nation’s capitol because society has forgotten to care for you when you returned back home. Is it worth it?  Are these people who can hail you one day and nail you the next — depending on the mood of the media — worth dying for?

At least one Arizona congressman doesn’t think so.  Anthony Williams resigned shortly after the shooting, in the face of death threats from the Tea Party on him and his family. I certainly don’t stand in judgment of him for protecting himself and his family.  All of the death threats on President Obama and his beautiful family have me on my knees every night praying to God for their safety.  Yet, as I stated in my very first post, it would be a dream come true and an unspeakable honor to report to the West Wing of President Obama’s White House on a daily basis, no matter the sacrifices I’d have to make in my life. That hasn’t changed for me — but should it? Maybe a boring 9-5 isn’t so bad…

Surely no one but the killer could have foreseen the horror that would take place that day in Arizona. Surely, if they could roll back time, the victims would have chosen to be anywhere else in the world but right there, right then. I don’t think anyone ever wants to die. Though I know that my soul is safely anchored in the Lord, and I will meet Him once I’m dead to this world, I am scared to death of the unknown process of dying. But, we all will die. And absent children, we’ve all done something worthy of death, whether its as small as texting and driving or walking out into the street without looking. But while He has taken others who have done less, God has spared our lives for some reason. Though He allowed six to be taken from this earth in that shooting, in His grace and mercy and infinite wisdom, He spared thirteen lives. What are these Lucky Thirteen to do with their lives? He has spared my life so many times, despite my best efforts at recklessness; what am I to do with my life?

Yes, I will die one day. I likely won’t know the day nor the hour, and I likely won’t have much say in the matter. But if I am to die, I would rather be comforted knowing that I spent my life in the service of God’s people, in any way God reveals to me that I should. I would rather live this life with all courage, knowing that no matter what may befall me in choosing that life, “greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”

In spite of me and all of my mistakes, Christ — who lived a perfect life free of any wrongdoing — still saw fit to sacrifice Himself, to die in place of me, so that my mistakes could be forgiven, and I could have eternal life with Him in heaven when it is my time. To Christ, I am worth dying for. To Christ, we are all worth dying for.  What greater way to express my gratitude than to live a life valuing what He valued and serving who He served on earth: His people?

This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If anyone has material possessions, and sees his brother in need,
but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue,
but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:16-18

If I must  die anyway, I had better have lived a life that was worth it. And if God says that His people are worth dying for — despite our ungratefulness, despite hatred, despite misunderstanding, despite bitterness, despite jealousy, despite ignorance, despite our deepest, darkest sins, and despite the worst in us — then I won’t argue with that, and I won’t complain.

I’ll just say thank you for another chance to serve.

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About DCDistrictDiva

Brooke Obie is the District Diva, an award-winning spiritual life blogger, writer and author living in a cool district in Manhattan. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @BrookeObie.