Author: Nicole Speer
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.
One of the graduation speakers at a ceremony I attended last month was a single mother in her 40s, who had decided to change careers and had just completed her graduate degree in mathematics.
About six months before her graduation, as she was writing her dissertation, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Treatments weren’t working so she had recently decided to stop fighting her disease.
She was dying.
She recounted for us that every time she told people about her terminal illness, they asked her why she was bothering to finish her degree. She didn’t have much time left. Wouldn’t she prefer to spend time traveling or with her children?
Her response to these questions was to remind the questioners that they, too, were dying. At this point in her story she paused, looked out at the audience, and said:
You are dying too. What will you do with the time you have left?
This story came to mind this afternoon (6/24/22), as I was processing the news that our government has decided our bodies are not our own, not 24 hours after striking down our Miranda rights and taking away states’ abilities to regulate the guns that keep killing us.
Amid all the news about Roe v. Wade, I came across a story about a San Antonio mother named Lynda Espinoza, who had just buried her 13-year-old son. Andre Hernandez was shot by police just a couple months after his 16-year-old sister, Naveah Martinez, also died from gun violence. After Andre’s death, police removed Ms. Espinoza’s four younger daughters from her home. The state said Ms. Espinoza was incapable of keeping her children safe.
If you are trying to make sense of how our country could take away people’s control over their bodies, destroy families, and kill people without consequence, Lynda Espinoza’s story captures it well. Our laws and systems of power were built on a foundation of genocide, anti-Blackness, and exploitation. This foundation has been strengthened over centuries by pathological consumption, state violence, and white supremacy.
Prior generations temporarily provided some protections for some of us, but marginalized communities have continued to experience the reality of our country’s broken foundation. Now, it is impossible for all but the most privileged among us to ignore the fatal flaws in our systems as we face the stressors of the climate crisis, rising income inequality, a pandemic, and a global authoritarian movement.
We are dying.
Our democracy is dying.
What will we do with the time we have left?
Now and in the coming years, as our country falls deeper into authoritarianism, our fears of losing friends, reputations, income, housing, safety, and even our lives will silence many of us and encourage us to uphold our own privilege and comfort at others’ expense. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, this is the devil’s work.
God’s work is the work of fearless love, and Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection serve as God’s proof to us that death and loss hold no power over those who surrender their lives to love and justice. Jesus was dying, but the radical and transformative work he did with the time he had left changed everything.
Our country as we know it is dying. But if we free ourselves from our fear of death and commit to the radical and transformative work it will take to dismantle the systems that have successfully upheld oppression for more than 400 years, the work we do with the time we have left will change everything.
And it just might lead to our resurrection, too.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff –
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.