January 18, 2021

Holy Wednesday 2017: The Day Before

Misty Morning. Photo by Susanne Nilsson

Holy Wednesday 2017

NOTE: On Wednesday of Holy Week, this classic Michael Spencer post from November, 2009 reminds us that tomorrow may find us taking a journey into the unknown. Tomorrow is Thursday, and we have plans for supper and a walk in the garden.

• • •

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 by Susanne Nilsson at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    Christ walked towards death
    on towards our salvation
    such pity here

  2. Eccl 7:2
    It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.

    It is always in my mind –

    • It’s the schizophrenic nature of every church community: people in joyous celebration (births, renewal) standing beside people in despair (death, loss).

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > nature of every church community

        It is the nature of every community.

        • I don’t disagree, it’s just that I think everyone views “church community” as more perfect (aka “less broken”) than other communities, and it’s not.

          • But shouldn’t it be, given its mandate and claims? And that it isn’t, what does that say about its mandate and claims?

            • I think the problem comes in either the faking of perfection or leadership’s demand for it. Recognition of being loved despite our brokenness helps a church community’s health and ability to be healthy to others.

  3. Great reminder: we’re not promised tomorrow .

  4. One of Michael’s best.

  5. Michael wrote this in November 2009. I think he discovered he had cancer about a month later. I wonder if he suspected something.

  6. The day I was born into was the day I started dying to this world. It was also the day other living things started dying so I could live here. With a heart that hurts and is long suffering I await the promise of a Being that said in word I will

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