When I started commuting to Atlanta, I discovered the blessing of podcasts. On the morning drive, NPR keeps the darkness from closing in, but in the afternoon, a good podcast can turn an hour and a half commute into time well spent. One of my favorites is called “For the Love.” It’s hosted by author and speaker Jen Hatmaker. At the end of the show, she asks every guest the question, “What is saving your life right now?” She gives credit for the question to pastor and writer turned college professor Barbara Brown Taylor.
It’s a good question to ask ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. What is saving our lives right now? For some it’s a ventilator. With Covid threatening to overwhelm their system, the steady pumping of oxygen into their lungs is saving them. For over eighteen months, we’ve been told to wear a mask, keep our distance and wash our hands to save our lives. These are three simple things we can all do to keep from spreading a deadly virus. With vaccines readily available, the most direct way to save our lives is to get vaccinated. When civil rights leader Rev. William Barber, got his shot, he said he got vaccinated because Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He led by example in hope that others would follow.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. There are two things that save lives when it comes to breast cancer. Monthly self-exams and annual mammograms. When detected very early, breast cancer has a 100% five-year relative survival rate (National Breast Cancer Foundation). Ask a woman going through breast cancer treatment what is saving her life right now, and she might talk about her family and friends, spiritual support through prayer, and the kindness of those who care for her.
When we ask the question, “What is saving my life right now?” we’re really asking, “What gives me a reason to live?” Those who live with mental illness understand. What matters to me, gives me hope, keeps me from falling into the abyss? We are asking whether there is something beyond the darkness and despair that helps us see through to morning.
When Jen Hatmaker asks her guests the question, she tells them they can answer however they want. They can be serious or funny, literal or metaphorical, go deep or go all out. It just sort of depends on the day and the mood, but most guests give an answer that makes me think about the question in a new way.
So, I’ll share a bit of how I would answer that question. What’s saving my life right now? There are a few things that keep me going. Good coffee in the morning. I like dark roast, black; except for right now, I add a little almond pumpkin creamer. Yoga and walking. I need to stretch and move. This is also the time I use for meditation and prayer. The Greenbelt is my happy place! My husband’s cooking keeps me alive. It’s nothing too fancy, but it’s healthy and served with love. Our dog, Blue, of course, because a good belly rub really does take away stress. The group of women who gather monthly to share life together in a sacred space of love. Studying about racism with some church friends who are willing to ask the hard questions and grow together.
When I start to answer the question, I’m amazed at how many things I could credit with saving my life right now. I’m grateful for this simple question because just asking is a way of working on the answer. If the unexamined life isn’t worth living, then asking, “What is saving my life right now?” helps us examine our lives and see their worth. Knowing our own worth, we might also see the worth of others more clearly. Barbara Brown Taylor answered the question in her stunning book, An Altar in the World. “What is saving my life right now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”