Allow me to ask you a rhetorical question, “If you could switch lives with anyone in the world for an undetermined amount of time, who would it be and why?”
Imagine a game of musical lives, like the children’s old party game musical chairs. The rules are these:
-You can have five people in your game with you, five people you’d like to trade lives with standing in a circle around a circle of five chairs.
-As the music plays and you all circle the five chairs as the music plays.
-When the music stops five of you sit and one of you, guaranteed to be one of the five people you’ve picked, doesn’t sit, there aren’t enough chairs.
-Whoever that is, that doesn’t get a seat, that is whose life you can trade for.
- Perhaps a famous celebrity in spot number one?
- A political figure who has the capability to change the world in spot number two?
- The pope whose influence in religious matters is enormous in spot number three?
- Bill Gates who has more money and intelligence than the majority of the rest of the population in spot number four?
- Your sick child, spouse or other family member who you watch suffer in spot number five?
Round and round and round you all go until the music stops and one of your handpicked five is left without a seat and has to trade lives with you.
How happy would you be? Since you get to pick the five people you can’t lose. Right?
We look at the rich and famous and envy their status, their money, their glamour and their jet-setting lifestyles. We see the suffering of a loved one who is deathly ill and we want to take that upon ourselves to ease their suffering, even if only for a few days, a few hours, maybe a few weeks.
Did any of us imagine any of these people in those chairs?
- The homeless mother on the streets with her children?
- The stranger in the hospital dying?
- The addiction inflicted teenager who is killing themselves and breaking their family’s hearts?
- The mad man planning on killing the innocent?
- The woman seeking revenge for the wrong done to her?
- The person we artfully ignore in their wheelchair in the store as if they don’t exist?
- The lonely, scared junior high student rejected by their classmates because they don’t meet the status requirements of the month?
- The parents who have over-indulged their children, defied the rules for them and are about to see the price for their irresponsible parenting? Or the child they have raised who is about to learn how the “real world” operates?
Or perhaps one of these were occupying a game position for you?
- Someone our own age and gender living in the deepest of poverty with no hope of getting out except death?
- The parent watching their child’s life devoured by an incurable disease?
- The spouse holding their partner’s hand as the doctor removes life support?
- The father who wakes up in the hospital to find his wife and four of his five children have been killed in the same car accident that spared him?
Well of course we didn’t, at least the largest majority of us didn’t. There may be a few people who thought of taking the place of someone suffering but not many because that is just not human nature and above all else, we are human.
Yet would the lives of one of the rich and famous be as wonderful as we think? No. The rich, the famous, the rich and famous all have their burdens in life too. Perhaps greater burdens than we can imagine.
I may be the one in the wheelchair being ignored by someone who believes they are so artfully ignoring me that I can’t tell, but I do not have a camera flashing in my face as I ignore the person ignoring me. As I struggle to get in and out of my car to the wheelchair and back again no one is demanding to know my views on some political or religious issue. As I pinch pennies and wonder how on earth we’re going to afford life’s basic expenses no one is pleading with me to seed and feed their “next great thing/scheme”. When my eyes close at night it is not the face of my child or spouse I see in my dreams racked with pain.
“I am who I am by the grace of God”* and I appreciate that entirely. I don’t want to trade places with anyone. Every battle, every wound, every scar, every tear, every pain, every heartache, every heartbreak, every mistake, every consequence I’ve been through or paid has resulted in who I am.
While I’m not who I imagined myself to be as I was growing up, not who my parents thought I’d be, not where I could be had I obeyed God more and myself less I AM WHO I AM and who I am is okay with me. Tomorrow I won’t be who I am today and every tomorrow in my future I will change a little but I hope I don’t ever want to trade lives with someone else unless I’ve reached the point it can be with someone whose life’s burdens are heavier than mine.
What about you?
–Donna (a.k.a. Faye)
*1 Corinthians 15:10