August 19, 2019

There’s Always A Day Before

hbedUPDATE: We are still praying for Gary and his family. He’s still fighting. Your prayers are welcome.

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.

Comments

  1. Referring to Gary, let us not mourn that such men die, but be thankful that such men lived.

  2. Monk,

    The best thing I have read of yours by far. True words.

    Peace,
    Austin

  3. I agree with Austin. Monk, this is the writing I subscribe to your blog for. Perfect.

    There was a day before my 2-week old daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. But that day was not her last, or ours. Just like your friend, we have been able to display God’s grace to others through our efforts on behalf of our daughter instead of being upset, thinking this is unfair, challenging God, etc. We hope that our daughter will find Christ before her last day before the end.

    It’s the greatest life to live…living in that day before.

    • ” We hope that our daughter will find Christ before her last day before the end.”

      He knew your daughter before she was formed in her mother’s womb. He is her breath of life. She does not live a moment that He does not will for her to live. I too have a child born with serious health problems and I have feared that the Lord was far away from us. It had something to do with not understanding why my child was suffering, and how that could be ‘allowed’ by the Creator. Then, some things happened that showed me His Presence in the life of my child in a way that I could not deny.
      Remember the Scriptures: the little children that wanted to come to Lord Jesus? They did not know Who He was, or know that He could ‘save them’, or give them eternal life: they just wanted to be with Him. No, your child is not ‘lost’ from Him. May the Lord give you peace.

  4. Stunning and powerful writing Michael. I’ll hug my girls tighter when I get home. If I get home?

  5. Monk,

    As usual, another thoughtful article.

    I take solace in the fact that God is aware not only of the day before but the day after; that He has counted our days and written them in His book before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:16). Sure, my heart skips a beat at the mere thought of my doctor saying, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but…” However, my salvation is set, my final day is booked, and my Savior has me well tended for. That is a peace that is beyond price.

    Blessings,

    Jim

  6. So true. Excellent post and reply from Jim. Jonathan Edwards (I think) used to talk to his children about the imminence of death and being prepared for it. That’s a subject that we have too often neglected in our American lives. However, death is the one reality that will come to all of us.

    This is a topic that we need to hear more of. Living for Jesus, living well. Dying for Jesus, and dying well. And being prepared for both.

    • Patrick Lynch says

      My dad talks to me about the Christian life and death almost every day..

      So far, to no effect. It’s weird to think that his reward in heaven will certainly be great on account of him seeing so clearly the liminality of this life when I (and many of us here) can’t acknowledge that reality other than superficially: he’s talking about the soul and immortality, and I’m agreeing to platitudes. Ever notice yourself doing that?

  7. Thanks for the reminder that the life we live is not our own, and that we are not in control of our schedule. I am grateful for the comfort that comes from knowing that my good, gracious Father has my life in his hands.

  8. “Some of us are doing, for the last time, what we think we will be doing twenty years from now.”

    That’s one of the most profound statements I’ve heard in a long, long time. And this is one of the most profound pieces I’ve read in a long, long time. Thanks, Michael.

  9. Scott Eaton says

    Thanks, Michael.

  10. Your words are a needed backdrop from solving the 1001 ills that plague our clown car. I guess there is a time for everything, but it’s always time to be hopeful and alive. This post is getting reread and passed around (my friends suspect I’m on IM retainer).

    It sounds/seems like you are feeling much better (physically);
    praising HIM for HIS gifts…thru you;
    Greg R

    • Excellent, thoughtful piece. God bless you and friend Gary.

      __________________________
      “(my friends suspect I’m on IM retainer). ”

      I too find myself starting lots of conversations with my wife by saying, “I read something interesting today by the I Monk that I want your thoughts on.”

      • are you getting the eye-roll yet ?? but then you probably package your comment way mo’ betttah than moi…….

  11. This may be the best thing you’ve ever written. Thank you.

  12. Laura Short says

    It seems that my last 10 years have been riddled with days before:

    the day before the email my Mom sent about my Dad’s cancer.
    the day before my Dad died.
    the day before my Aunt called me to the hospital.
    the day before my Mom died.
    the day before Rick started slurring his speech.
    the day before we heard ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
    the day before Rick died.
    the day before my GrandSons…all three of them were born.
    the day before I met David.
    the day before we married.

    If I’ve learnt nothing else, it’s been to not squander my time, because all my days are days before…

    Praying…

    Laura.

    • Laura,

      HUGS!

      ALS has been a part of our life, too……..very sad………and then, some of the best memories ever.

      God bless you on the rest of your “day befores!”

  13. There was the day before 9-11 when everything seemed wonderful and ministry and missions was awesome in NYC and we had had a WONDERFUL worshipful meeting of churches the day before. Then everything changed.

    There was the day before last year when my son was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder and things have never been the same again.

    Every day is a day before and as you said..we must live as if…resting in the victory of Jesus.
    We only have today as a guarantee.
    Thanks!
    Lisa

  14. Sort of deflates the importance of the so-called “culture wars,” doesn’t it? May Gary, his family, and his friends know the overwhelming love and grace of God during these days–that really goes for all of us.

    • You mean that if companies quit giving benefits to same sex couples, we got prayer back in public schools and we built that 100 foot tall border fence on the Mexican border that these sort of things would still happen?

      Sorry for the attempted humor, but you are so right.

  15. This is good, good. There are too many people teaching that if you live the perfect Christian life that tragedy will never knock at your door. When it does, despair falls hard on top of tragedy. The truth is, our hope in Christ only has true meaning in the thick of the storm. Christianity without tragedy is like bragging about having an airplane that never flies, like a ship which never leaves dry dock, or a sportscar which has never touched the autobahn. Trials and testing don’t prove that we are right, but that God is right. It’s God taking us up in that airplane and exclaiming, “see? I told you it would fly!”.

  16. These are the kinds of things I am afraid to think about. Thanks for making me think about them in light of Jesus.

  17. Thank-you, really beautifully written – I took the laptop into the other room to share it with my wife.

  18. Now there is some real preachin’

    Wow. Nice work.

  19. Wise, poignant and beautiful words that I much appreciate as in the past two weeks many of those around me have been going through the days of. Former pastor died in a motorcycle accident; friend of a friend died suddenly of an undetected brain tumor; longtime missionary with Alzheimers finally went to be with the Lord; friends boss died of medical compications from swine flu; and I have my own health issues. The combination of mourning for loss and rejoicing in the gift of shared lives and the hope of eternity is one of the paradoxes of our faith.

    Realizing that each day before is a gift and living in a way that shows that is one of the first steps in spiritual growth and maturity. Realizing that the day of and each of the days after are also gifts is the tougher and deeper spiritual lesson. Only in Jesus is our suffering sanctified and made meaninigful in the light of eternity. We don’t own our lives; we are all living on borrowed time. Use it well.

  20. Good words, brother. Thanks.

  21. Stopped me dead (pun intended) in my tracks. Also brought up some rough memories and emotions as I’ve experienced my fair share of “days before.” I once used to try to remember my death once a day in order to help maintain a right standing before the Lord, but I have since forgotten to do this. Thank you for the reminder, and thank you for reminding me how to live this day.

  22. A good reminder Michael. Thank you. I’ve had many days before too. As we all have. But it’s good to be reminded that we live in today, not tomorrow. This is the day God has given us. As the others have well said, this is why I read you.

  23. Thank you, i-Monk. …now where are those tissues?

  24. A profound picture framed by compelling words. Thank you.

  25. I’ve been reading IMonk since I stumbled across A Conversation in God’s Kitchen back in 2002 I think. You’ve written a lot of great stuff that has resonated with me. But today you simply knocked it out of the park. Waaaaay out of the park. The Yankees couldn’t afford you with this kind of hitting! I’ve already read this post 4 times and sent it to a whole list of people as a must-read.

  26. One of the most encouraging, sobering, uplifting things I have ever read on a blog. Keep preaching like this. Thank you.

  27. Christiane says

    When you think about what people must face in the future: the tragedies and losses and suffering, maybe it is a special blessing that God has arranged it so that we live one day at a time, and that we cannot see too far down the road.

    In not letting us see too far down the road, we are spared much anticipatory suffering.
    In this, we can see God’s mercy and wisdom.

  28. Rabbinical saying from Pirkei Avot: “Repent one day before you die.”

  29. It is stirring to think about our lives as an active reflection of what we actually believe. It should cause us to pause and take note of our thoughts/actions and ask ourselves if they are the image that we wish to leave on others. I was reminded of this last Sunday, listening to a solo shortly before step forward to preach; the song pointed out that we are to reflect Christ as a mirror reflects a face. Not knowing if I will have another 20 years to accomplish what I desire (personally and within the church), it is imperative that I live out today as if it is the only change that may have to say or do something for Christ in the life of another person. Today is all I know; it is predicated on the past and the tomorrow will never come.

  30. I pray for Gary, his family, his friends and you. Even if we believe our loved ones will be with Jesus when they die, we are still sad that we will no longer be able to see, hear, enjoy the person here on earth and we are sad that they will not be here to continue enjoying their lives. And with Gary having such sudden news about leukemia, it must make it even more difficult for his family to “get their heads around” this development in his life.

    Jesus, you healed the deaf, the blind, the lame. Please touch Gary and bring him back to good health for the sake of his loved ones and friends and to express your great power and love. And if for some reason we do not understand, Gary is not to be healed, then fill him with your peace and joy while he waits to join you for eternity. Give his family a sense of your presence surrounding them and holding them in your great cushioning love.

  31. James A. Karpowitz says

    This was stunning Michael.. and poetic. One of your finest pieces. Thank you .

    Jim K.

  32. In-Spired Michael, truly the Lord is with you. May he be with Gary and his family thru this time.
    It is the day after the day before everyone at Fort Hood thought they were safe on their high security military base and the danger before them lied in Afghanistan and Iraq. We need Shalom to come.

  33. I am but 26 years old but, after a marriage, bringing a child into the world, adultery (hers), divorce, and now losing a home to bankruptcy…. I realized there were a LOT of the ‘day before’s that I should have cherished. I do look at things differently now though. As I imagine anyone faced with huge life changes must as well. On the days I have strength to do so, I do believe in living each day as its own individual gift and not just another check on the calender….

    • Anthony, I am sorry to hear all the things that have befallen you. I hope you are able to have great joy with your child and I hope things turn around for you financially too. Sometimes hope is all we really have left.

      • Patrick Lynch says

        Sorry about it all, Anthony; I hope you will receive the grace that lightens and clarifies the spirit in bitter times, and I’ll pray for your ex-wife.

  34. Absolutely prophetic in light of the Ft. Hood shooting. Stunning post. Thank you.

  35. I think some lyrics from James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” are appropriate for this post:

    “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
    I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.

    Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus,
    You’ve got to help me make a stand.
    You’ve just got to see me through another day.
    My body’s aching and my time is at hand and I won’t make it any other way.”

  36. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15

  37. Today marks the 4th anniversary of our school’s “day before.” Four years ago this weekend one of our seniors — an outgoing, energetic, deeply spiritual young man — was on his way home from a weeklong soccer tournament in Dayton, TN. At 2:30 Saturday morning, he was killed in a freak accident: while trying to push his stalled car off & pop the clutch to get it started, it rolled over him, dragged him into a ditch and landed on him. We miss Adam terribly this time of year; he was special.

    Thank you, Michael.

  38. Thought-provoking–thanks for posting.

  39. Michael: This is wonderful and heart breaking. Prayers for Gary.

  40. The Day before the Cole Bombing

    If we insist on living day by day, we can easily rob ourselves of he blessings of G-d’s presence. I am trying, and failing, to be like Job, saying each day — … Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
    (Job 1:21)

  41. Has anyone read this book by Barbara Ehrenreich: “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America”?

    http://www.amazon.com/Bright-sided-Relentless-Promotion-Positive-Undermined/dp/0805087494/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257533065&sr=8-1

  42. Found this today in Henri Nouwen’s “Bread for the Journey”, for the Aug 22 entry (small devotional)

    “Living Our Passages Well”
    Death is a passage to new life. That sounds very beautiful, but few of us desire to make this passage. It might be helpful to realize that our final passage is preceded by many earlier passages. When we are born, we make a passage from life in the womb to life in the family. When we go to school, we make a passage from life in the family to life in the larger community. When we get married, we make a passage from a life with many options to a life committed to one person. When we retire, we make a passage from a life of clearly defined work to a life asking for new creativity and wisdom.

    Each of these passages is a death leading to new life. When we live these passages well, we are becoming more prepared for our final passage.

    Lord help us prepare, today, for each and every passage
    Greg R.

  43. “If we, with all our apparatus of rational mind, are to live carefree lives it can only be through realizing that the point of comparison between our life and that of the birds is not their animal immersion in the instant but their exposure to all the weather there is, and then choosing to live the life of faith. ” – J. Neville Ward from “Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy”; ch. 3.

    http://www.amazon.com/Five-Sorrow-Ten-Joy-Meditations/dp/1596280123/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257538235&sr=8-2

  44. I believe with all my heart that our Lord directed me to your web-site. I was not looking for another
    “Blog,” believe me! But I did want to be ministered to as I went through the somewhat tedious task of reading and answering my mail at work and at home.

    I’m an administrator of a Christian Radio station and have the privilge of hearing God’s Word taught by many celebrated preachers, most of whom I’ve enjoyed and from whom I’ve learned. But your ability to translate Truth and then package and deliver it with such clarity of wisdom is astounding to me.

    I am a new-comer to your site but I am not hesitant to put your name out there. Every article I’ve read has transformational power and the ability to provoke deep thought. You are blessed and gifted. The Day Before is every man’s story …

    One last thing, I’m even encouraged reading the responses to your posts!

  45. I was searching your site, looking for information on Gary, and came across this entry. I have been thinking a lot about “lay offs” and “your world being turned upside down.”. It took the lay off to see that my world was upside down and now it is right side up! My new position is very demanding, about 10x more than where I used to work. I work about sixty hours a week, at least. I was very overwhelmed and saw little hope of being productive in my new environment. This week has been a blessing though. I am depending on God, the one who holds all the knowledge of the universe, to guide me in the direction that I need to go, to do the assignment that He has so graciously given me. My children are thriving and buying our first home is in the near future. What I thought I could never live without, is the very thing that I needed to let go of, to do what God wants me to do. Thank you for all that you have done for my family.
    You and your family have been and always will be a blessing to our family.