I was listening to the radio recently and I heard an emotionally wrenching interview with one of the victims in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. Tony Sanchez and his best friend—who did not survive—were on their way out of the club when the shooting started. Tony unpacked his terrifying account of that night … flinging himself onto the floor and hiding his head underneath a sofa, from where he could see seven other people lying dead from gunshot wounds to the head. He spent 20 or 30 minutes lying there, quaking, in the growing pools of blood. Just when he convinced himself that he’d be OK, he became the shooter’s target. The murderer put four bullets in Tony’s back. The bullets passed through his back and went into his left arm, shattering nearly every bone, but miraculously missing his spinal cord and every internal organ.
When it was clear that the police were inside and in control, Tony pulled himself to the door with his good arm, where someone then carried him outside to receive help. He doesn’t remember anything after that until he woke up in the hospital and was told by the medical team, “You are a miracle!”
The bullets passed through his back and went into his left arm, shattering nearly every bone, but miraculously missing his spinal cord and every internal organ.
After listening to Tony’s unbelievable story of trauma and survival, the radio host asked him if he’s had time to process what it all means to him personally. He said: “I’ve got to keep on fighting. God has a plan for me.”
And that statement’s true for all of us.
Much of the time, we feel something working against us. Gratefully, it’s not a deranged killer. But in our ordinary lives, we come up against so much opposition that sometimes it can feel like war: relational strife, anxiety and depression, troubled children who we can’t seem to help, a house full of little ones who command every minute of every day with no time left to breathe, health problems that arise out of nowhere…
Even if we don’t feel like we are fighting for anything right now, someday we will. Life is full of battles, big and small. If someone you love dies, you fight to deal with your grief and to keep living positively. If you’ve been abused, you fight to recover and rewrite your future. If someone hurts the heart of your child or a friend, you fight to make sure they know they are valuable. Sometimes, you fight to get through a day with three toddlers and 15 piles of laundry, or to not lose your cool when a coworker betrays you.
No matter who you are, you have the ability to show the world—just by tackling life as it comes at you—that you are willing to fight and that you believe you have a purpose for every breath that you take. We demonstrate this belief through our willingness to love with the possibility of being hurt, having children (such a huge risk on every level), taking on jobs with people we don’t know, and tackling personal challenges to make ourselves healthier or stronger or braver.
And in every skirmish or all-out battle, Tony’s words are ones that can encourage us, buoy us, because we were made to conquer … but we must keep on fighting.
“I’ve got to keep on fighting. God has a plan for me.”
Tony fought to live, and believes that he is alive today because God has a plan for him. Even if you don’t believe in God, I want you to know that there is a plan for your life, a good plan.
Like Tony, we must see each day that we wake up as a gift, and another opportunity to fight for our hearts, to fight for others, and to fight for what we believe in. Others will know, by our expressions of kindness and compassion, that we believe there is a plan for our lives because that’s what allows us to believe in them.
William Frederick Halsey Jr., known for his daring tactics as a U.S. naval commander in World War II, explained the capacity of the human spirit to enter into battle with this simple statement:
“There aren’t any great men. There are just great challenges that ordinary men like you and me are forced by circumstances to meet.”