“…Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there…”
Over the last few days, I’ve watched the story of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard steadily grow in exposure on nearly every form of media – both “new” and “old.” Friends, family, and colleagues of every demographic and background are sharing her story and offering bits of personal commentary, like little windows into our most vulnerable core.
If you haven’t read about Brittany, she’s an intelligent and vibrant, young-woman, with an indisputably beautiful soul. She also happens to be terminally ill. While the death of a young person is always heartbreaking, Brittany’s story in particular has gained national attention because she knows exactly when she’ll die: November 1, 2014. She knows this because she’s been prescribed medicine to end her life – a practice that is now legal in the state of Oregon.
If I’m being honest with you: This is a story I don’t want to see anymore. I don’t want to open my newsfeed on Facebook and see her beautiful wedding photos. I don’t want to go through my Twitter feed and stumble upon her smiling face. I want this story to go away. No, not because I’m offended by “physician assisted suicide.” While that topic must be prayed over by people of faith, it isn’t what drives me to close my laptop.
I long to look away because this is so unfair.
Why should a 29-year-old woman have to decide on the manner of her death? She should be planning vacations, and the future of her family, and her career. Instead, she’s deciding between debilitating radiation, hospice care, and death on November 1. It’s a cruel reality for someone so young.
Many times in this world, it’s often easier to look away. Executions in the Middle East. Ebola in West Africa. War in Ukraine. Death of our young people. Poverty and Homelessness in our backyards. There are so many reasons to look away and oh, how I have tried. I scroll quickly past the stories and photos, or quickly close out of windows. I slam my laptop shut or hastily change the channel. However, no matter how many times I do, Brittany’s smiling face reappears.
Like the psalmist in 139, I long to cry out: “Where can I go to flee from your presence!?” And while I’m talking in part about Brittany, the truth is that I must also be talking about God. Because in the midst of Brittany’s story, and every story of human hardship and tragedy, God is present. As the psalmist discovered, we can’t flee from Brittany anymore than we can flee from God because those rough places are where God works and calls us to be present. We can try and flee, many in this world do, but it is by gazing upon these stories which are the hardest, these human stories seemingly pulled from the depths of Sheol, that touch our most vulnerable core. While we may long to run, it is God calling out to us to draw nearer to this holy ground at the feet of Brittany’s story. It is there that we draw closer to God, closer to one another, and closer to ourselves.
You can read Brittany in her own words, and your should, on CNN.