May 23, 2017

iMonk Classic: There Is Always a Day Before

Self-Portrait, Rachael Ashe

Classic iMonk Post
by Michael Spencer
From Nov 5, 2009

Note from CM: Soon after this post Michael learned that he himself was sick with an illness that would ultimately take his life. These sobering words are fitting in Lent, and a poignant introduction to this week’s remembrance of the anniversary of Michael’s passing.

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.

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.

Photo Link: Rachael Ashe’s Photostream

Comments

  1. A sobering reminder, and a great encouragement. Thanks for posting this, Mike.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There was a day before 9-11. Check.

    There was a day before your child told you she was pregnant. Check.

    There was a day before your wife said she’d had enough. Check.

    There was a day before your employer said “lay offs.” Check.

    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. Double check.

  3. This is a great repost, and some of Michael’s finest work and words. Thanks for putting them back before us this lenten season.

    GregR

  4. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” – Plato.

    Many here have quoted this before. Perhaps this would be a fitting paraphrase:

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is in the midst of the day before.

    This is why the message of grace must be defended.

  5. Rick Ro. says:

    This remains one of my favorite Michael Spencer posts.

  6. I’ve had a ton of Lent-related readings in front of me over the last few weeks, however, this is the “devotion” I will remember. It is especially poignant considering the source. How many times we wish we could push the button and be sent back to the “day before.” Somehow my hope is that eternity is wall to wall “days before.” Meaning complete restoration not denial.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “…my hope is that eternity is wall to wall ‘days before.’ ”

      Nice thought! One thing is for certain: heaven will never have a “day after”! (Maybe that is what Hell will be…wall to wall “day afters”…?)

  7. Heather says:

    This post made me cry and I did a lot of my own check marks on the list. I have only read a few of Mr. Spencers writings but I truly have enjoyed them. I plan on going back and reading them and am looking forward to his wifes upcoming posts.

  8. My mother spent much of her lifetime working with terminally ill people. Frequently, even before they knew something was amiss, they had stories. This post reminds me of some of the things my mother told me they said. Perhaps the Spirit leads some people, perhaps Michael included, to similar thoughts to help prepare them for what lies ahead. Perhaps it helps give focus to the day(s) before. I hope to live every day as if it is the day before.

  9. They Guy from Knoxville says:

    No one could write like Michael did and enjoy reading his work over and over – seems like there’s something new everytime. Though we didn’t meet this side of heaven I can never underestimate the influence and impact that Michael has had on my life via this website. Miss him very much and my thoughts/prayers will be with Denise, Clay and Noel as this anniversery comes tomorrow – that 1 year mark is one of the most difficult after a loss.

    • Cynthia Jones says:

      I always said I could listen to Michael Spencer preach the same sermon seven days in a row and get something new out of it every time. That still hasn’t changed.

  10. lets find the basics of Christianity

    What is christianity?

  11. I thought this was Michael’s best post. I loved it, it’s really sobering and makes you stop in your tracks.

  12. Another Mary says:

    So good to be reminded of what truly means the most.

  13. I have been looking for this post for a long time. I’m glad it’s been re-posted.

  14. I spent a large portion of the day yesterday trying to find the right words …. but nothing that I could come up with seemed big enough until I reread this – thank you for posting it again.
    I was blessed to have known both Michael & Gary and so it is fitting that Michael would be the one to provide the words I have searched for.
    ” 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.”

  15. Darrell says:

    Wonderful words to remember every day. Thanks. I seem to remember an old saying that went something like:

    “I have always known that someday I would travel this road, but yesterday, I did not know it would be today.”