December 1, 2020

From the iMonk Archives: There’s Always A Day Before

path2Today Chaplain Mike revisits a classic IM article from Nov, 2009 about our human finiteness. In the light of iMonk’s own unexpected health problems, this article seems especially prescient and poignant.

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: My friend Gary passed on after I 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.


  1. This is a timely repost. I was thinking just the other day about this post and how fitting it is given Michael’s current health.

    May God bless today.

  2. So true. A great post!

  3. Christiane says

    The mercy of God. Can we doubt it ?
    He made us as we are, and placed us into ‘time’ so that we could not see too far ‘down the road’.
    What greater proof do we need that we are only given what we can handle at any one time.
    Mercy must be a quality that is rooted in wisdom.

    Chaplain Mike,
    is there any special ‘annointing of the sick’ for Protestants ?
    It is biblical and is meant to give strength.

    I once heard about a woman who was extremely ill and unconscious.
    Her family and friends surrounded her hospital bed and held hands and called upon the Lord on her behalf. The story goes that, as they prayed, her heart rate and vital signs improved.

  4. this post reminded me of my last lunch with my best friend the day before he suddenly died at 46 of cardiac arrest. we usually ate at this one italian place every week near the university where we taught and we would sit across the table from one another, one of those square tables with four seats. he was sort of ‘homophobic’ i guess in the sense that he never would sit in the seat 90 degrees from mine, but only across from me, probably thought it was too close for comfort. but strangely, and this last memory still stays with me, the day before he died he sat at lunch in the right chair next to me, i thought at that time how strange, the next day he was gone, and that is as close to him as i will ever be until we meet again in eternity.

    michael i’m praying for you everyday!

  5. In comparison, so many things don’t seem to matter – who is right or wrong about this or that doctrine. I’m in the ER today getting poked and prodded. So humbling and sobering.

  6. This is timely for me as well, as I have had a family situation develop suddenly over the weekend.

  7. Michael,

    With the single digit temps Sunday morning, we wimped out and did not go to our little country So. Baptist church, so we had a family worship time. During that, I read this post to wife, son & daughter. It was possibly the very first time son & daughter (at ages 20 and 17 repsectively) had ever really pondered the fact that things will not always stay the same, and definitely the concept of “the day before”. Great discussions and no little soul searching.

    I love this post… thanks for rerunning it.

    Jim E

  8. There’s a preciousness found in the present that I seem to lose most days. I live in the past, with regrets and celebrations, or the future, with fears and plans, and lose the only day I ever truly hold. Today. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Russ, I think many of us join you in not living fully in the present day. I know I do not. I hope that I will do better this year. I tend to be a worrier.

  9. Like iMonk, I am battling cancer, and this essay amazes me. He captured perfectly the strange before and after world those of us facing potentially fatal illnesses live in–before even receiving his own diagnosis–and the proper Christian response. I’m praying for the iMonk, and I hope he continues to write about his journey.

    Christiane–my Lutheran pastor did an anointing of oil for me when I was first diagnosed, so there are some Protestants who do that.

    • Christiane says

      Thank you. I was hoping someone could arrange an annointing for Michael, if it would be meaningful to him. I don’t know what ‘the rules’ are. I just want him to have the blessing.

  10. Thank you for everything. Very useful