Big cars, big money, big houses… these are many of the elements of what’s considered “success,” both outside the Church and (depending on who you talk to) within. We chase after the next promotion and we switch jobs as soon as the old one stops satisfying. We seek happiness in the next toy when the old one isn’t nearly as sparkly and bankroll it on a piece of plastic. We’ve buried ourselves under debt in the pursuit of happiness and have nothing to show for it.
But this is not what life is to be for the Christian. We’re not to be pursuing a life of self-exaltation—we are to put our pursuit of these things to death. We are to bury ourselves in Christ. This is the point of Hayley and Michael DiMarco’s new book, Die Young. In this book, the DiMarcos take the pursuit of self head on as they examine the paradoxical world of the Kingdom of God, where death brings life, less means more, weak is strong and slavery to brings freedom.
Die Young is a very fast yet challenging read. The DiMarcos’ writing style is casual and punchy—it reads almost like a very excited conversation. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, though, as it means you can wind up breezing past some really solid material if you’re not careful. Additionally, peppered throughout the book you’ll find “Here lies…” sidebars—personal confessions from the authors admitting their own struggles putting their pursuit of putting “self” to death and how they’ve dealt with the consequences of their sins in these matters. These candid and vulnerable confessions are really helpful to read, but their placement is really awkward, often breaking up the flow of a chapter. I often found that I was skipping over them altogether just so I could finish the thought of the paragraph or even the entire chapter before coming back and reading them.
But make no mistake, whatever flaws this book may have, its explanation of the seeming paradoxes at the heart of the Christian life is well worth your time. One of the strongest examples comes in their chapter on humility, “Down is the New Up.” There, they write:
The truth is that it’s easy to take this idea of significance so far that we pervert it and make it more about our own salvation . . . than about loving and serving God. . . . Self-loathing would not exist if we had replaced our own interests with God’s interests; but it does exist no solely because of our self-hatred, but because of the mostly subconscious notion that we are so significant that we ought to be doing better than we are, to be more successful than we are, to be thinner than we are, or to be in any way better than we have been. The deep-seated and camouflaged pride in us screams, “It’s all about me! My pain, my suffering, my stuff. And because of that all my energy is going into fixing me, even through torture or starvation, punishment or hatred.” What happens is that the punishment of self is really an elevation of self to the center of our minds.
A mind that puts self down where it belongs, in humility, is free to lift God up where he belongs. This kind of mind has a right assessment of self.
My note beside this was one word: Gold. This is an incredibly insightful assessment into that most subtly and deadly form of pride: low self-esteem. The problem, they argue, is not that we think too little of ourselves and need a boost—the problem is that we think far too much of ourselves. What brings confidence is not an elevation of our self-image, but the elevation of God’s image in our minds. This is an insight of which anyone who is involved with any sort of pastoral or biblical counseling would do well take note. Brothers and sisters, people don’t need advice based on Maslow’s damnable hierarchy of needs—they need the Christ-exalting, sin-crushing good news of the gospel. That is what will provide those whom we seek to care for a proper self-image. Nothing else will do.
This theme culminates in the final chapter, “Red is the New White,” where the authors examine Christ’s death for His people. Here they remind us that it is Christ’s blood that makes us innocent before God, that saves us from the wrath of God, that purifies us of our sin and brings us victory. It’s a wonderful way to end the book, as it leaves the reader once again thankful for the work of Christ on our behalf:
Red is the new white. And what a beautiful sight it is. Own it. Take it. Enjoy it. You came to him covered in the filth of your sin, ugly, tired, worn out, and wondering what hope you could find. But now that you’ve been bleached white by the red blood and the power that it holds you will never be the same. You can’t be—his Word confirms it. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This again is a message that Christians should never tire of hearing. This is the promise of the gospel, the hope that we have been given. What else can we do but rejoice?
Die Young may be an easy read, but its message is anything but. Read carefully and see where it challenges you to examine the way you live even as it encourage you to pursue the death of “self” to the glory of God. It might be painful, but it will be worth it.
Original review by Aaron Armstrong at Blogging Theologically.