The good folks at Thomas Nelson Publishing recently contacted me about hosting a stop on their blog tour for N.D. Wilson’s new book called, Death by Living. They mentioned his work had much resonance with my own, so I gave it a read and was thoroughly impressed. Not only at the prophetic challenge to live fully into the story God has for each of us, but because N.D. is an incredibly gifted writer and storyteller. It is writers like N.D. who embody the artistic elements of writing. Like a captivating painting or a beautiful lyric, N.D.’s writing has the potential to move you; not just to different thinking, but to renewed action.
I asked him a few questions to give a bit more insight into this work:
1. Death by Living. Based on your intro, it seems this title comes from the perspective that our everyday life is a series of deaths. Or the mundane can overwhelm and run us down. But you’re turning it towards a message of hope. Unpack that for us. Or, if I’m totally misinterpreting, guide us towards your vision behind the title.
N.D. What breaks us down? What ages us? What, in the end, will all of us die of? We will die of living. Cause of death: life. The point of the title (and the book) is to add an urgency and a gratitude and a joy to our living. If someone gave you a million dollars and told you that you could had a week to spend it before it all evaporated, you’d have a jolly week. But that’s exactly the situation we are in. We have hands, feet, a mind, a heart; we have breath and laughter and sight and taste and songs--but we can’t keep any of it. We can’t keep our selves…we will be spent, the only question is how well.
2. “Did you clothe the hipster and give him his coffee and inverted brand fascination?”
I just love this quote (and live in a bit of a hipster world myself), so I figured I had to turn it into some kind of question: Hipster’s & God’s Provision. Talk to us…
N.D. Character irony is everywhere. Hipsters are God’s creatures too. He gives giraffes hilarious necks and llamas goofy faces, and birds of paradise the need (and the flashy ability) to strut. He gives us the ability to be swept up in the faux importance of trends and brands and weird scruples, which we display as if we have found some truly unique plumage. And you know He laughs.
3. Readers of this blog care alot about story. Not just the communication device of story, but that we are all active participants in a Story that requires our full attention for it to unfold in the way that is not only best for us, but for the whole created order. You talk about narrative and story through your book. Invite us into your understanding of story and how it informs your work in this book?
N.D. The lovely (and terrifying) truth about the macro story in which we all exist, is that it doesn’t depend on us to make it unfold in a way that is good for all of creation. Our own choices determine what kind of characters we will be in God’s story (fools, villains, hypocrites, food pharisees or hand-wringing political idolaters), but the triumphant arc and glorious resolution of the Story rest in His hands, not ours. If we suck as heroes, its not like He’ll have trouble crafting better ones. Live as a fool and He might just use you as a thematic cautionary tale. Live as a villain and you will be a vessel of His wrath (like Pharaoh). Live as a self-righteous tick and He’ll use you in His story to show His readers what happens to the proud and the haughty. But live faithfully, by grace, serving and imaging our older Brother who threw down death…and be used for His glory more directly. But like it or not, every creature will be used for glory, no matter how rebellious.
4. In chapter 9 you transport us to your experience walking the holy sites of Jerusalem. You invite us into your Western desire for historicity that often trumps our willingness to simply worship. You also challenge your reader to engage places like this in that they allow us to see we are each part of a story that requires we know the story of our ancestors who have come before us. How might our identifying with earlier parts of our story enhance our participation in the story we to live today?
N.D. There is nothing new under the sun. We live and die and struggle and doubt and love just as many others have done before us. By looking back--especially at the history of our own families (spiritual and physical)--we can see the enormous impact that relatively small decisions (especially moments of faithfulness) had our own lives before we ever existed. How we choose to exist in our own moments will have the same kind of massive impact on future generations. There is no small life--no person with choices in the narrative that don’t matter.
5. What is it you hope your reader walks away thinking, saying or living as a result of this book?
N.D. Live with eyes wide with gratitude, and leave a wake in the lives of others.