Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

One Question We all Need to Answer

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What would do if you were forced to choose between your story and your life?

The War

Perhaps it is an unfair question. The only way to know for sure is to be placed in such a moment. If you are like me though,  you hope to respond the same way that the monks of Tibhirine did in Algeria in 1995.

Their story is chronicled in a French movie entitled Of Gods and Men. You can watch the trailer below.

(If the video does not play for you, click here to watch it in your browser.)

The movie is set in the middle of a civil war between the Algerian military and a rebel force called the Armed Islamic Group.

The monks were there to minister to a local village, their story a simple one. They sought to worship God, to live simple lives, and to help those who are afflicted..

The Tension

Tension was a part of their ministry from the beginning. A tension between their Roman Catholic identity and the Muslim culture of the village. They managed by serving and loving the people and letting God fill in the rest. Their ministry is story enough.

When the war developed, the tension grew. They, along with the people of the village, had no interest in the conflict. Finding themselves threatened by somebody else’s war, they had a choice to make.

Do they stay or do they leave?

Members of the order dealt with the issue differently. Some were committed to the work. Others wanted to leave. Some even questioned their faith. All were frightened.

In a critical scene for the movie, the group met to discuss what they would do. Each individual was given a chance to express his opinion.

The issue was simple. To leave would mean life. To stay would mean death.

One monk, an old physician, saw the consequences of their decision differently.

When asked his opinion, the old man simply responded,

To leave is to die.

A return to France would be the only way to remain alive, but he feared something worse than physical death.

The physician, the healer of the body, the curator of medicines, understood that there is more to life than our lungs breathing air and our hearts pumping blood.

He understood that the essence of living a full life, a life that matters, is not about what happens to our bodies, but what happens in our souls.

Life without purpose would be no life worth living.

The Question

The story forces us to ask a more important question.

What is the one thing in this world that you cannot live without?

What one thing, if taken away, would make life unlivable? The answer to this question will give you insight into the true purpose and meaning of your life.

The point of asking is not to ridicule or to judge, but to gain insight into ourselves. I do not intend on answering for you, but I hope you choose to answer it yourself.

The story of these monks make me want more out of life. They inspire me to live for more than life itself. I want to have a purpose so great that to leave that work would be the equivalent of dying.

The monks chose to stay and in essence they chose to die. But I believe they found something in life that is more valuable than what most of us are searching for.

I want to know this same God, the one the monks chose over their own lives. The one from whom true life flows.

Do you have this type of purpose? What is the one thing you cannot live without?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment.



About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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8 Replies

  1. I can’t live without hope. I also need to share this with others. Without hope, in some ways I feel we are already not living. 

  2.  Jim, that was my answer too!  My favorite verse in the bible is Heb 10:23  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.”  Hope in the One I put my faith in is what makes this life so beautiful despite seasons of pain or struggle.

  3. Limejuicejan

    Jesus said ” NEVER” will I leave you NEVER will I forsake you. Therefor we must hold on to the hope he gave us at the cross…He will NEVER leave or forsake us & I believe him when he says “It is finished”
    So hold on to life whatever it throws at you, Jesus can catch it even when it does not appear that way.

  4. I agree. His promise is a valuable source of hope.

  5. I love the idea of having hope and then sharing it.

  6. Great thoughts, Jeremy. The first thing that came to mind with your question was “relationships”. I can’t live without being in relationship with other people. If I didn’t engage relationships, I wouldn’t be living up to who I was created to be. My hope is that at the end of my life, I’ll be remembered for who I loved, not what I did.

  7. We often do not value relationships enough. It is a great example.

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