Faith & Fandom
Sherlock: Your Life is not Your Own
Death has been a frequent fixture in the world of BBC's Sherlock. Really, it's not like there is an option if Steven Moffat is involved. Between Moriarty, Sherlock, Mary, and the countless cadavers they have encountered along the way, death is everywhere in these stories. Yet the way they have handled death has been profound. The last two episodes of season 4, "The Lying Detective"&"The Final Problem" were especially steeped in it. I am going to focus a good bit on life, the value of it, loneliness, death, and suicide. Because of the these themes, please exercise caution when reading. If you care enough to continue, the game is on.
During Sherlock's drug-induced jaunt through London with his new client, he deduced (once his head was clear enough) that "Smith's Daughter" was suicidal. Mr. Holmes demanded her gun as payment before flinging it into the water. This is all surrounded by a beautifully poignant speech about life:
“'Taking your own life.' Interesting expression. Taking it from who? Oh, once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”
Sherlock wasn’t just pleading with his client, but was also pleading with himself. We can find some powerful truths here. Our lives aren't just our own. They belong to the people that love us, the people we impact, the people who depend on us. One day, our lives here on earth will end, but to end it prematurely takes us away from all the people we influence. They have to deal with that for the rest of their lives.
My first encounter with suicide was with a high school friend named Josh. I just remember one day being in theatre class with him, and then the next thing I knew he had shot himself. He didn’t die immediately, so all the friends that could fit inside my Jeep and I spent the next day at the hospital beside him. Josh and I were friends, but we weren't the closest. I was truly saddened by the loss of his life, but what was more personally painful was seeing all my other friends suffer. The friends that sat at Josh's bedside, his memorial service, and the classrooms he no longer occupied truly suffered. Their hurt lasted not just for a little while, but for life.
Josh wasn't the only person in my life who committed suicide, and sadly, there’s chance he won't be the last. We need to see that as Sherlock points out, our lives are not our own. Our life belongs to the people who love us, and there is literally no one who loves you more than God. I think we take that for granted, but it's so true. 1 Corinthians 7:23 puts it very bluntly when Paul writes, "God paid a high price for you, so don't be enslaved by the world.” That verse shows us simply that God paid for us with His own love and with his sacrifice of Jesus. We can't let the world around us overpower us or weigh us down. It is so easy to be so lost that we don't know how to make our way out.
That was the state in which John found himself after Mary died to save Sherlock. Between the unfathomable guilt of his infidelity prior to her death, to the fear of Sherlock seeing it in him, to the shame of letting Rosie down, and of course, the hopelessness of losing Mary herself, John was a pure wreck. He was pretty much in the state Jonah was in Jonah 4:3 when the prophet writes, "Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah was in that state because he was a whiny punk throwing a tantrum. John, on the other hand, had legitimate cause for grief. I love that Mary knew him well enough, and loved him so well that she was prepared to send Sherlock in after him to rescue the husband she loved. She had a contingency plan that stretched beyond the grave. I'm not saying we all have to be as crafty as Mary, but if some of us would open our eyes, we would be able to see that there are people in front of us right now who are just as lost as John was, and maybe we can be the ones to rescue them. It may be as simple as paying attention and not giving up.
But seriously, look at the depths Mary went as she guided Sherlock. "I’m giving you a case, Sherlock. Might be the hardest case of your career. When I’m ... gone – if I’m gone – I need you to do something for me. Save John Watson. Save him, Sherlock. Save him. Don’t think anyone else is going to save him, because there isn’t anyone. It’s up to you. Save him. But I do think you’re gonna need a little bit of help with that, because you’re not exactly good with people, so here’s a few things you need to know about the man we both love – and more importantly what you’re going to need to do to save him. John Watson never accepts help, not from anyone. Not ever. But here’s the thing: he never refuses it. So, here’s what you are going to do. You can’t save John because he won’t let you. He won’t allow himself to be saved. The only way to save John ... is to make him save you. Go to Hell, Sherlock. Go right into Hell, and make it look like you mean it. Go and pick a fight with a bad guy. Put yourself in harm’s way. If he thinks you need him, I swear ...... he will be there.”
She knew that the only thing that would save John was for him to save someone else. She knew that any other attempt would be met with resistance. I'm not telling you that when you see someone struggling with life to put yourself in danger. What I am saying is that the only reason John or Sherlock are alive at the end of this adventure is that they had each other. They had Mary, who truly saved them both, and they had each other. I always take special comfort that the first negative statement in the Bible is this: "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). The first thing God said it wasn’t good is that we be alone.
Being alone is hard. Period. It can crush even the strongest of us. Long before Jesus even took human form, it was prophesied that He would be lonely. The prophet Isaiah wrote, "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem" (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was lonely even though He was followed by thousands of people at times. Even on the cross, He cried out in lonely despair and agony because it felt like even God had abandoned Him. In Matthew’s gospel account, it is written, "About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)" (Matthew 27:46).
Loneliness can destroy us, Eurus is proof of that. Sure, she was a bit crazy from the start, but loneliness is what drove her to literally destroy the lives of hundreds of people all in an attempt to cry out to her brother for his love. When Sherlock finally cracked Eurus's riddle, this is what he found: "I am lost. Help me brother. Save my life before my doom. I am lost without your love. Save my soul, seek my room."
She had destroyed so much all because she was lonely and hurting. That doesn't mean we unleash havoc on London every time we are overcome with lonely despair, but her behavior illustrates how damaging it can be. We need people. We need a network, a community, and a family. We need people who are going to pour into us, hear us, love us, comfort us, and make us laugh. We need this because God told us it's not good to be alone. Paul drives home this point in Philippians 2:3-4 by writing, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
When Sherlock finally confronted his deranged sister, he could have dispatched her or destroyed her. Instead, he showed immense compassion. Sherlock says, ”Eurus, open your eyes. I'm here. You're not lost anymore. Now, you... you just, you just went the wrong way last time, that's all. This time, get it right." We can and should strive to be that calming voice of love and grace when our friends are lonely, lost, and hurting. We show people their lives have value when we give over ourselves. Sometimes people just need to know that others actually believe their life means something. Look at the effect it had on Sherlock when Mary displayed this in the most definitive way when he says, "In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.”
Your life has value. Period. When you share your life with others, it helps them see theirs does too.
When we invest our lives in others, it not only gives them value and defends against loneliness, but it works to strengthen everyone involved. The author of Hebrews writes, ”Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrew 10:24- 25). The Watson's saw this. As John said to Sherlock in one of my favorite lines "She taught me to be the man she already thought I was. Get yourself a piece of that." By all means, we all need to get ourselves a piece of that.
In closing just gonna leave with this final quote from Mary:
"There is a last refuge for the desperate, the unloved, the persecuted. There is a final court of appeal for everyone. When life gets too strange, too impossible, too frightening, there is always one last hope."
She was of course referring to her boys from Baker Street, but let me be clear. We can all find that hope in Christ. This world will crush us if we let it. Sometimes the world doesn’t even have to do anything and our own loneliness will destroy us. Sometimes we don't know where to find hope, but know Jesus came that we may have not only eternal life in heaven but abundant life here And now!
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). Satan comes at us like Moriarty — stealing, killing, and destroying the things around us — and unchecked he would get away with it. But this isn't some grand Holmes level mystery to solve, but it is the final problem. The place we go for life and the place we go for hope is found in Jesus, and the community of believers He has provided us with.