And woe betide anyone who gets in the way of these rights - God included.
A lot of us often go through life totally ignorant of its purpose. Instead of finding our true purpose and identity in God and in turn loving each other, we seek material gain, we search for what makes us feel better either materially or emotionally. We live selfishly, sometimes even blindly hurting others in search of our own immediate needs and concerns, after all, "Isn't it my right to feel good?"
And then suddenly when the cold hand of tragedy strikes and this gift of life seems to be 'cut short' (if there is such a thing), we get angry and upset and we shake our fist at God for robbing us of our own fabricated and imaginary entitlements.
We get at angry at the one who graciously gave us this gift of life. The One who continually gives us our existence moment by moment, through no effort of our own.
Who sat us down at the beginning and said we are all entitled to live 80 - 90 - 100 years? Who sat us down at the moment of consciousness and said to us, "You will be allocated exactly 85 years, you will be given a good job, the ability to own your own home, you will have 4 children allocated to you and will then live relatively comfortably for the next few decades. Although there will be some difficult times, you will mostly enjoy friends and family till the end, and when the end does come it will be sweet and soft."?
Who told us this lie?
Who has told us the lie, that a long life is equal to a good life? When did the meaning of life, the quality of our character and how we treat each other get trumped by length of life? Some children who have died have certainly lived more fruitfully and loved their neighbour with more of a pure heart than a lot of us. Is that to mean their life meant any less because of its brevity?
Life no matter how short, be it years or even months it is a miracle. Because instead of life there could have been nothing in its place. Life is something where there was once nothing and that in itself is a cause to celebrate. And the experiences gained in that life (no matter how short) are all a blessing. If an infant lives for but a day, yet in that day has felt the kiss of its mother, or the warm embrace of its father and has felt the golden rays of the sun on its face even for a moment, hasn't it lived its one day on earth in full?
I'm no sadist and I am not ignoring the tragedy of death nor the undeniable pain, hurt and loss it brings, but our lives cannot be judged by their length as some kind of measuring rod that ascertains it's meaning or it's fullness.
In days of old, the most noble of young warriors would rise to the call for battle - for king and country and in the bravery of battle they would be slain - all for the protection and love of their families. Though painful, there was a certain glory in their death. They lived for something, and they died for that something, and that something was usually bigger than themselves.
There was no shame, no quiet mourning, their bodies were set alight and paid homage to by the mourners who were warmed by the flames of their departing glory. Their lives stood for more than just their current and immediate needs and what they died for was more valuable than a long and healthy life - more than waiting for a juicy superannuation plan and a house. It's meaning and it's substance carried more weight than all of these.
If we are faced with tragedy, we must think back... how often did we thank God for the company of that individual who has now died, or even now lies dying? How grateful were we that the their existence and presence in our lives was a gift of grace given to us totally undeserved? Or did we take that individuals existence and presence in our lives as a 'given'? Something to be taken for granted. Did we realise that the love of a friend or a family member or even the care of a nurse in our dying hours is a gift? Something we have done absolutely nothing to deserve, or are all these things just our 'right'?
A different perspective
There have been millions on earth who have never experienced the love of a true parent or even the companionship of a single true friend. There have been countless numbers who have been born and raised in slavery (and still are). There are many this very day who sift through garbage dumps daily for food and live short and sick lives. Where are their rights? Where is their comfy warm house, 'meat and two veg' on the table, their 90 years and their soft retirement package?
We are so quick to ignore God, ignore his gracious gift of life to the extent of being so busy with life's interests, lusts or greed that we forget why we even have been given life in the first place! God has given us our very life. After all, in the darkness of non-being, did we suddenly conjure our own will from nothing, and cause ourselves to 'be'?
But in realising this, how often do we ponder and thank him for it? How often do we softly speak a 'thank you' during those gold moments of joy with our families? How often do we ask ourselves... How blessed am I? To have the gift of existence - where there could have been no existence at all. And in that existence, have the blessing of even one person who LOVES me for no other reason than because I exist?
We can get on our high horse and while we are shaking our fist at God and bellow, "If only He was in MY shoes he'd understand! If He got of his cloud and lived my life I'm sure he would change things!". What most people don't realise is that he did! God DID get off his cloud, God in Christ did become a human being and he was born into a poor family, in a dirty stable no less, surrounded by animal dung. He also lived a life of selflessness, he lived a life of love, he was called the 'suffering servant'.
But also in his life he had peace, he had assurance and joy despite his trials - because he knew who he was, he knew who's he was and in that he knew his purpose and lived it to the full.
And what was his reward for living such a holy, selfless and giving life? He was betrayed by a friend, abandoned by his closest companions, falsely accused, whipped, beaten, cut, bruised, spat on, then tortured on a cross until he died. That was HIS reward for his 33 years (not the full 85 mind you). But he did it all for love, he did it because he knew his purpose, and that was to redeem humanity. To cure us of this sickness called sin that blinds us and robs us of our true purpose and our real identity and finally to bring us back home to Him and the Eternal Father, the King of Love.
You have been given life through no power of your own, so the question is... what are you doing with it?
Tim Everton is a youth worker and child carer from South East Melbourne. In his off-time he pursues graphic design, photography and enjoys the beach and seeking out the next best cafe latte both in equal measure.
Tim Everton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html