Dying to Get There by Mike Williams
'Mike’s great contribution is to call us back to our birthright... Christians really ought to believe in resurrection and should be able to face decline and terminal illness with contentment and in hope'
Dying to Get There: A vision of heaven to transform our lives on earth
By Mike Williams
Reviewed by Terry Young
In writing about heaven, Mike puts his finger on a raw nerve: most of us rather like it here, and so the business of dying is vastly more traumatic for us than it was for our forebears centuries ago. I doubt if he has all the details right, but since I’ve not been there and come back, I can’t tell which bits he got right - so all I can really say is that I like the call to think more about heaven, and the way in which Mike has decided to write about the aspects that appeal most to him in order to whet our appetites.
Mike chooses a nice starting point by telling a story of a lady who sailed out of this world one Sunday morning during worship and glided straight into worship in another. Why, he wonders, is that sense of joy and peace so elusive for the average Christian?
So why is Mike looking forward to heaven? Most of the rest of the book is taken up in a series of chapters – perhaps they were sermons, originally – that cover some aspect of heaven. Not everything that Mike is looking forward to would light my fire, but who cares? It’s going to be fun! What I most like about this section is his commitment to a holistic view of Scripture through which he explores a balance of what the Bible says: new bodies, life without fatigue, glory, and even a chapter on sex.
Personally, I would have liked to read more about spending time with Jesus, since whatever bond we have developed while here on earth is likely to be the most obvious and continuing connection between the world we know and our experience in the world we are to inherit. However, given the dearth of new material coming out on this, I’m just delighted that he is writing at all.
For me, the best of this book is the stories. Never having heard him preach, I would imagine that Mike is an entertaining preacher. His kick-off story, as I said, flows well and there are many others, including one where he came a-cropper after balancing improbably while sanding a window. A ladder was involved… and a lot of pain. But it was a great story. Like all the best adverts, I really enjoyed it, but I can’t quite remember what he was advertising.
On a more serious note, there is a story of someone losing every faculty, one by one, yet who survives in contentment.
Clearly, if most of us face death with – as he puts it, the two Rs – resentment and resignation, a single book is unlikely to help us, or to help us help those who are already on the final approach to glory. But I’m not sure Mike thought he was writing that sort of a book. There are books with poems and readings to help us get our heads into a better place over death, but this is not it.
Mike’s great contribution is to call us back to our birthright, to socialise the idea that Christians really ought to believe in resurrection and should be able to face decline and terminal illness with contentment and in hope. We have an option about how we spend the last decade of our lives. Increasingly, we await the next biopsy result or appointment with the specialist. It’s an option, but it’s not on Mike wants us to contemplate for long when our time comes.
Other good reasons to read it? Well, it’s short, it covers a lot of ground and, if you prefer swipes to pages, the Kindle edition is cheaper than the paperback. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a reader, I think this is well worth your time and money.
Professor Terry Young is an author and member of a Baptist church. He set up Datchet Consulting which combines his experience in industry and academia