This Isn’t How I Die


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.

I wrote:


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)


  1. Brenna

    I’m on the bus right now (with lots of other people), trying not to blubber. Your piece is a great encouragement to me; I’ve been stuck in a string of bad months. I’m going to share this with my husband when he gets home. Thank you for posting.

  2. Carrie

    So good, Joe. I knew the reference immediately and thought: “Yes!” I’d never thought of those words in this context before, but it’s perfect.

  3. Peter B

    Dang. I need to see this movie.

    Joe and Gina, thank you for the constant quiet encouragement that your life provides. Maybe one day I’ll figure out what I’m shooting for and head in that direction.

  4. Brittany

    I love this! So encouraging! God’s great victory is ours to claim as well in Jesus! This is NOT how I die… 😉

  5. Jen

    This speaks hope into our family’s situation right now, thank you so much for this. The day in and day out of putting your dreams on the back burner, or the slow cooker, is really hard right now. We needed to be reminded that this isn’t forever and the end.

  6. Joe Sutphin

    Thank you everyone for the kind words. In all honesty, I submitted this post maybe a month ago or so, and I needed this today as much as anyone. I do hope that each of you can have a way to fight off the darkness. Sometimes a simple line from a movie can hit us right where we need it. Bless you all. I’m rooting for you.

  7. Michael

    This was a necessary encouragement that has followed a couple of others this week that were much needed. The others were like a big bowl of ice cream on a hot summer evening. Unfortunately, they were still sitting in the bowl. But this was the spoon!

  8. RM Peters

    The Lord is definitely speaking to me right now through this post! The past few years my husband and I have been trudging together through the dark forest. We have both been yearning for a way out, a light in the dark. Very recently I have came across the verse from Phillipians you quote at the end and have been meditating on it daily. It’s even on my lock screen as a powerful reminder. This week has been a particularly difficult one for really no good reason, just a lot of self doubt and darkness inside. Last night as I was reading my daughter her veggie tale devotion and lo and behold the verse from Phillipians came up. I randomly selected your post to read for an encouragement to start the day. All I can say is wow! Thanks for Truth this morning.

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