Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NIV)
I recently enjoyed a few days in New York City with four sisters in Christ from Loon Mountain Ministry in New Hampshire. Having spent most of my life as a loner, I had never travelled together with a large group before. I went into the trip with an equal mix of excited anticipation and trepidation. We had a wonderful time that I will always treasure, not for the least because we were there (correspondingly) for the 5th anniversary of my fiancée’s “baptiversary.”
Five years prior, at a church two blocks from my apartment in the Bronx, Will went into the water and came out a new creature in Christ. The Facebook memory from the day shows him with his wet hair slicked back, his white robes clinging to him, as he holds up a small picture. The caption reads “Marc Paul was here with us today.”
Marc Paul Decoteau was one of the final steps we each climbed on our way to salvation. Or rather, his death was. You see, this time of year also corresponds to the killing of the 19-year-old soldier while serving in Afghanistan with the US Army.
Marc and his family are from my hometown, the ski resort of Waterville Valley, NH. A devoted Christian, Marc Paul grew up in the theater that I run in the summer. When he was killed, in late January 2010, his death rocked our tiny community to the core. Thousands came out to mourn him at a large memorial service attended by the Governor. But at the small burial service held in April, I remember standing in the pouring rain, watching his family, who were all seated under an awning. The coffin stood between me and his parents. I recall the smiles on their faces and the laughter that erupted from his younger brother. I thought, “This is the saddest thing a family could ever walk through—why are they so happy?” and also, “Whatever it is they have that makes them so at peace right now, I want some of that!”
Of course, “that” was Jesus Christ.
I didn’t get saved until August 2016 and Will, my fiancée, until late January 2019. But Marc Paul’s sacrifice that fateful day in January 2010, the literal laying down of his life so that he may save others, set off a chain of events that lead at least two people to laying down our sinful, “old man” natures and giving our lives to Christ. We both credit his death, and his family’s subsequent faith-filled response, as the catalyst for our salvation.
So, as I sat with the ladies at a lovely dinner, looking at their shining faces, I got tears in my eyes for the “perfect moment” I was experiencing—a saved woman, able to pray in public with other saved women—loved, free and cherished. A moment that I never would have experienced if, in a very different moment 14 years prior, thousands of miles away from a swank NYC restaurant, in a cold desert landscape, a young man had not laid down his life so that I might live.
I might never be as brave as Marc Paul Decoteau, but I am so grateful that I serve a God who loves us both equally.
- What does it mean to you to “lay down your life”?
- Is there something in your life that needs to be laid down or surrendered?
- What examples in your life do you have of others sacrificing so that you (or those around them) might benefit?
By Donna Devlin | Bethlehem, NH