Monday, September 02, 2013

Death by Living

I read Death By Living: Life is Meant to be Spent by N.D. Wilson over the weekend (the irony of spending a good chunk of the weekend reading a book about spending my life is not lost on me). It is not a long book. Still, I scoffed it down, rather than digesting slowly. Trevin Wax calls it one of the year's best books, Stephen Altrogge says he doesn’t really get it, Eric Metaxas says our “decaying culture needs more salt, light and joy from such authors as N.D. Wilson” (I concur).

I loved it (it was hard to stop the scoffing). I do understand what Altrogge meant, but I don’t know that it was a book that set out to have a main point, other than the one in the title. Here’s a little teaser:
Clear your throat and open your eyes. You are on stage. The lights are on. It’s only natural if you’re sweating, because this isn’t make-believe. This is theater for keeps. Yes, it is a massive stage, and there are millions of others on stage with you. Yes, you can try to shake the fright by blending in. But it won’t work. You have the Creator God’s full attention, as much attention as He ever gave Napoleon. Or Churchill. Or even Moses. Or billions of others who lived and died unknown. Or a grain of sand. Or one spike on one snowflake. You are spoken. You are seen. It is your turn to participate in creation. Like a kindergartener shoved out from behind the curtain during his first play, you might not know which scene you are in or what comes next, but God is far less patronising than we are. You are His art, and He has no trouble stooping. You can even ask Him for your lines.
ND Wilson uses vignettes of his own experience, and weaves in stories from his four grandparents, to fill in the scene of what a life spent looks like, and also illuminate how all our small steps create our future. It’s exhilarating and challenging.

However, the rub for me is that, for all the joy in this volume, I found myself feeling strangely miserable. What a book means to you is at least half composed of when you read it. I actually mentioned long ago, when I first became aware of this book, that just reading the blurb made me feel like a waste of space. The book delivered. Several times Wilson refers to spending himself for his wife and children. And married people will laugh, but to us single folk it appears quite obvious who married folk are supposed to spend their life for. We've heard it preached over and over that your spouse and children are your primary ministry. But when you’re single, you come home from what they call your full-time job, and no-one is screaming in your kitchen or tugging on your trouser legs, and you have to work out how your life is to be poured out. And chances are it won’t be in your home, so you have to go out and find it. Therein lies the difficulty. And there are presently ways I’d like to change my life, because I don’t want it to stay as it is, and ways I’d choose to spend it, but it doesn't matter what I do I can't bring about those changes, so I’m currently flummoxed (and a little bit overwhelmed by seek.com.au). But I know it lies with me to work this out, or just go on pouring on what’s in front of me.

However, don’t let my miserableness stop you being exhilarated and spurred on by this book. Wilson’s writing is a treat and the ride is very enjoyable.

3 comments:

Margaret Meandering said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Meandering said...

Zechariah 4:10

"For who scorns the day of small things? These seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Ali said...

Oh thank you, meandering Margaret! I am going to have to go read some more of Zechariah ...