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Michael Spencer (the Internet Monk) has been a web friend for several years. I’ve been inspired, comforted, and challenged by his blogging since running across his work — along with the Boars Head Tavern — back in 2004 or so. Which is Mesozoic in Web years.
Michael was kind enough to endorse Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse and review Pocket Guide to the Bible and has even let me guest blog at the BHT a time or two. I love his real-life ministry, his healthy skepticism, his confessional blogging, and his passion for the radical grace of the Gospel. I mention him a couple of times in O Me of Little Faith. He’s one of the most popular Christian bloggers out there and the reputation is well-deserved.
Sometime around Thanksgiving, Michael’s health began to deteriorate. He had a pretty horrible month of December and spent the holidays in and out of the hospital, running tests and trying to figure out what was wrong. Eventually the diagnosis arrived: cancer. On Christmas Eve, doctors removed a small mass from the back of his brain. He’s currently recovering from the surgery, going through radiation treatments, and getting ready for chemo. He hasn’t blogged in several weeks, and the last two months have brought an abrupt change to his life.
In November, I linked — just a mention, really — to a post he had written called “There’s Always a Day Before.” It was an especially insightful look at the day before the bad news comes. “Live this day and be glad in it,” Michael wrote, because you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.
In light of the events last week in Haiti and Michael’s own health issues — which started up within a couple week of his original post — I thought I’d re-publish this piece in its entirety. I don’t have anything to add to it, other than to say remember Michael and his wife, Denise, in your prayers…and remember that there’s no guarantee tomorrow will be like today.
There’s Always a Day Before
The news story is strange and tragic. Three college softball players go for a night time drive in the country. On an unfamiliar road, they take a wrong turn and drive into a pond….and drown.
There was a day before. A day with no thought of drowning. A day with family and friends. Perhaps with no thought of eternity, God or heaven. There was a day when every assumption was that tomorrow would be like today.
(Note: Michael’s friend Gary passed on after he wrote this piece.) My friend Gary has been the night dean at our school for more than 20 years. His wife has been in poor health, but he has been a workhorse of health. He’s walked miles every day, eaten a vegetarian diet and always kept the rest of us lifted up with his smile and constant focus on the joy he took in his salvation.
Two weeks ago, the doctor turned to him and said leukemia. Today he stands on the crumbling edge of this earthly shadow, looking at the next world, fighting for his life with all that medicine and prayer can offer. Our prayers for him as a school community have been continuous, because we never thought there would be such a day.
There was a day before he heard “leukemia.” A day of work, chores, bills, hopes of seeing a grandchild, prayers for students, love for Suzi. Not a thought that the journey of life contained such a surprising turn for him.
And on that day, Gary was full of faith, full of a servant’s heart, ready for many more days or ready for this to be last one before whatever was around the corner.
We all live the days before. We are living them now.
There was a day before 9-11.
There was a day before your child told you she was pregnant.
There was a day before your wife said she’d had enough.
There was a day before your employer said “lay offs.”
We are living our days before. We are living them now.
Some of us are doing, for the last time, what we think we will be doing twenty years from now.
Some of us are on the verge of a much shorter life, or a very different life, or a life turned upside down.
Some of us are preaching our last sermon, making love for the last time, saying “I love you” to our children for the last time in our own home. Some of us are spending our last day without the knowledge of eternal judgment and the reality of God. We are promising tomorrow will be different and tomorrow is not going to give us the chance, because God has a different tomorrow entirely on our schedule. We just don’t know it today.
Who am I on this day before I am compelled to be someone else? What am I living for? How am I living out the deepest expression of who I am and what I believe?
My life is an accumulation of days lived out of what I believe is true every day.
Gary lived every day with the story of Jesus nearby and the joy of the Lord a ready word to share.
When the day came that “leukemia” was the word he had to hear, he was already living a day resting in the victory of Jesus. That word, above all earthly powers, cannot be taken away. It speaks louder and more certainly the more the surprising words of providence and tragedy shout their unexpected turns into our ears.
Live each day as the day that all of the Gospel is true. Live this day and be glad in it. Live this day as the day of laying down sin and taking up the glad and good forgiveness of Jesus. Live this day determined to be useful and joyful in Jesus. Live this day in a way that, should all things change tomorrow, you will know that the Lord is your God and this is the day to be satisfied in him.