“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”




On this Independence Day, as we commemorate our historical declaration as an independent and sovereign nation 241 years ago, I always think about one of my favorite movies: Saving Private Ryan. Near the end of the movie, there is a memorable scene, in fact, the culminating arc of the entire story.

Private Reiben: “MEDIC! MEDIC! We got a medic!?”

Fighter planes zooming overhead.

Private Ryan: “They’re tank busters, sir, P51s.”

Captain Miller: “Angels on our shoulders.”

Then Captain Miller looks at Ryan and starts to say something.

Private Ryan: “What sir?”

With his right hand, shaking, Captain Miller grabs Ryan’s gear strap and pulls him close.

Captain Miller: “James…earn this. Earn it.”

He dies.

Each time I watch that clip, Capt. Miller’s (played by Tom Hanks) statement “Earn this” reaches down into the deepest part of my gut and spurs me to continuously earn the right to be an American. Because those patriots before us endeavored, in their own sweat and blood, to give us the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today. Through the establishments of these freedoms: free exercise of religions … freedom of speech and press … and freedom of assembly and petition, we must always remember that there was a cost to others.

And in their sacrifice, we must always remember that “Freedom isn’t free.”

On this Fourth of July, as I remember those who sacrificed their lives to give me the freedoms of being an American, I must especially never forget what God did for me during my fight against cancer.

I was reminded during my devotional time this morning that He truly “brought me up from the grave...kept me from falling into the pit of death” (Psalm 30:3). The remission I am able to enjoy today is because of Him and those He used to help me recover – the oncology and medical community, my wife, family, friends, church, and community. And just like Private Ryan receiving the charge of “Earn this,” I too, need to earn this freedom from cancer. And for being currently in remission.

How does one, who is free from cancer, earn their life?

Each cancer survivor ‘makes good’ on being in remission in their own way. For me … I will strive to always live out my personal life vision and mission:

Life Vision: 

  • To be selfless and of service; committed to taking care of, benefit, and be of value to those around me by truthful and compassionate thoughts, words, and actions.

Life Mission:

  • To reach people that others cannot reach, who are bounded and troubled by their past afflictions and persecutions, showing them with my real-life experiences and struggles that they can break away from their torments and find true satisfaction and healing by having a fulfilling relationship with Christ.

Also, cancer served as a catalyst to get me to write more. For over a decade, I’ve pondered the idea of writing non-fiction, but I vacillated between “I’m not good enough to be a writer” and “Who am I to write something for others?” (and it doesn’t help that you own father said, “You’re too dumb to write anything of value). However, now, after fighting a few rounds of cancer, I realize my life may come to an end sooner than once expected. So, I am taking up my pen. And I’m not going to have any regrets lay beside my gravestone. In fact, one of my personal non-fiction essays was recently published by an online magazine (The Write Place at the Write Time). My essay is titled, For the First Time, My Wife Thanked God for My Cancer.

Finally, I realize now that cancer was a gift, not a disease. I am truly a better man because of cancer. It has allowed me to grow in ways that are, in some ways, unexplainable. But one thing I do know. I will strive to “Earn it” each day and to never forget the freedom that cancer brought to me.

So, as I celebrate July 4th today with Teresa and friends, I will not only remember those who gave me freedoms as an American, but I will also thank God for giving me freedoms through cancer.



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