Being able to spend every day of life immersed in your passion is a dream for many of us. I am tremendously and gratefully humbled to say that I am able to do that. But for sixteen years, my wife Gina and I strived for this life, pleaded for it, worked away all spare time for it, always able to see its existence, but never sure when it would arrive, some days wondering if it really would. Some days we just didn’t have it in us to keep carrying the fire. Maybe that is you.
There were times when deadlines were mounting at my day job, and her job was wearing her thin. I would feel like the dream was futile. I would feel that failure was imminent. Like maybe it was all foolishness and I should give up and face what looked like reality. One difficult day alone could crush my soul. But then, on one of those soul-crushing days, I sent Gina an email from my desk at work. Somewhere in that email I paraphrased Edward Bloom from Tim Burton’s film, Big Fish.
“THIS ISN’T HOW WE DIE.”
Then I reminded her of the story. As a boy, Edward Bloom bravely takes a dare to gaze into a witch’s eye and behold the moment of his death. In knowing that moment, he understood much more about his life yet to be lived. While taking a cut through a forest, the atmosphere became dark and imposing, and tree limbs converged on him, winding up around him to trap and smother him. The music intensifies to build the sense of peril. All hope is lost. And suddenly he remembers something.
“This isn’t how I die,” he says, almost scolding himself for believing the trees. And from that point on, he had no reason not to live life as big as possible (whether or not his tales were true) because he knew the ending.
This quote became a constant encouragement to us over the next few years. We believed we already knew who had the victory, and in addition to that we believed in the vision of the future we had dreamed up and talked about in such detail together. When difficult days came, one of us would usually remind the other, “This isn’t how we die.” And a strange power and strength came over us, pushing us up out of the darkness, back into hope. We still remind each other of this when things seem dark.
There were, and are, still bad days. Bad days that turn into bad weeks. Bad weeks that become bad months, and it’s as if we’re living together in a dark, thick swamp of misery and hopelessness.
Then one day Gina emailed me a new quote. This time from the Princess Bride.
“We know the secrets of the Fire Swamp. We can live there quite happily for some time, so whenever you feel like dying, feel free to visit.”
No matter where we are in life, no matter how real the darkness, we’ve learned to look at our circumstances and say, “This isn’t how I die,” and live.
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ, developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. —Philippians 1:6 (AMP)