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Naya Rivera saved her son before she drowned: A fact about sacrificial love

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Naya Rivera saved her son before she drowned: A fact about sacrificial love
Naya Rivera and son attend "The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part" Los Angeles Premiere held at Regency Village Theatre in California.

Naya Rivera became famous for her role on Glee, a musical comedy-drama that aired on Fox for six seasons. Her body was recovered on Monday, five days after she went missing at Lake Piru in California. A medical examiner confirmed that she died from accidental drowning.

The thirty-three-year-old actress had gone on a swimming excursion with her four-year-old son, Josey Dorsey. The boy told investigators that they were swimming when he last saw her as she “boosted him” onto the deck of their boat from behind. Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub said at a press conference on Monday, “He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water.”

Ayub stated: “We believe it was mid-afternoon when she disappeared, the idea perhaps being that the boat started drifting—it was unanchored—and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on to the boat, but not enough to save herself.”

A fact about sacrificial love

Here’s a fact this terrible tragedy makes clear: Josey Dorsey will never have to wonder whether his mother loved him.

Let’s bring his story into our story. We live in a transactional culture that measures us by what we have done and can do. As Frederick Buechner noted, we live in a community built on grades rather than grace.

My work as a writer is measured by the degree to which it is appreciated by those who read it. Your work today is measured by its results.

As a consequence, we are what others say we are. I am a good writer if you think I am. You are a good teacher, or student, or lawyer, or doctor, or business professional to the degree that your students, teachers, clients, patients, or customers agree that you are.

This consumeristic, capitalistic system is foundational to the economic success of our society. We are far more motivated to work hard and well when we can see the benefits of such achievement.

However, this transactional way of life can also leave us anxious and discouraged. We are always the product of what we do rather than who we are. We wonder if people will like us on our bad days or if they know us as we are when they’re not looking.

This is why it’s so important to remember every day this fact: someone died for you. Someone chose to go to your cross, endure your torture, take your thorns and nails and spear, and die your death. Someone chose to be buried in your grave and then to rise again. Someone considered your eternal life worth his agonizing death.

The next time you wonder if God loves you, remember this: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And that “someone” considers you his friend (v. 15).

Max Lucado described Jesus’ Easter Sunday victory over Satan and then asked, “Do you believe no evil is beyond God’s reach? That he can redeem every pit, including one in which you find yourself? Trust God. He’ll get you through this. Will it be easy or quick? I hope so, but it seldom is. Yet God will make good out of this mess. That’s his job.”

Why do you need this good news today?