August 4, 2020

Wednesday with Michael Spencer: Just a guy with a life

Gethsemani Pilgrim (2017)

Wednesday with Michael Spencer
Just a guy with a life (excerpt from Chronicle of the Journey, 2008)

I’m a fifty one year old guy whose days leading churches in his denomination are probably over, whose wife got burned out in the non-existent “spirituality” of 30+ years of Baptist church life and ministry, who has been at his current job long enough for some people to wish he wasn’t, who has been stationed out on the frontier where there are no churches to shop, who spent so many years thinking so many things in his head were scriptural, reformed and right that it really hurts to have to admit he was wrong, wrong and wrong. In that order.

I’m just a guy with a life, and life is full of failure and loss. I wanted MINISTRY to be the ongoing reward. I wanted USEFULNESS to be my satisfaction. I wanted to be SIGNIFICANT. I wanted the contract to be in place and the insurance to protect me because I was the guy with the Bible. Well, that didn’t go very well, did it?

God thought it was time for all that nonsense to stop, and for the lifelong addiction I’d developed to my church as my universe, my wife as unquestioning supporter and my theology as my version of the inerrant Word of God to end. He made an appointment to pull the teeth, and I was not consulted in advance.

Ordinary life, extraordinary events and stuff that just don’t make no sense all combine to rearrange the furniture of my world. Every time I head for a comfortable seat, God sells it. Every time I look for the comfort food, the fridge is empty. Every time I get out my copy of “Things You KNOW Are True,” the dog has eaten it.

My faith continues. Jesus now fills the picture in a way he didn’t before. I realize I have a lot to learn from simple people who never get into pulpits and who aren’t supposed to know everything in the Bible like I supposedly do. My love for my wife and our Christian marriage continues, and there is much good that was not there before. I returned to church today, alone- something that in my anger I said I wouldn’t do. I was reminded that here I won’t ever be turned away from the table. I prayed for the five who were baptized. I was reminded that the faith goes far beyond me, my time, my preferences and my lifetime. I looked, and there were the people of God, and I was one of them. They asked me to lead in prayer, and the words were more careful than before.

I was grateful. I talked to Jesus and he told me it is all going to be all right, that I’m free to walk the new path as I can, and he will not leave me or forsake me. I felt sorry for my sin, and happy to know my Savior loves me.

Life goes on. Losses, gains, light, shadow, confusion, laughter, tears, God, Jesus, Denise, me.

When I look up from the road, I notice that the lights in the distance are closer and the noise behind me is not as loud.

Good journey friends. See you on up the road.

Comments

  1. Can’t say much more than “Yep. That’s right.”

    • Christiane says

      no one could write like Michael . . . so very grateful this blog celebrates his gift of writing

  2. anonymous says

    “I talked to Jesus and he told me it is all going to be all right, that I’m free to walk the new path as I can, and he will not leave me or forsake me.”

    https://youtu.be/LbwhSP3ZIq4

  3. I am truly sorry I never knew Michael Spencer.

    Great photograph!

  4. Rick Ro. says

    –> “He made an appointment to pull the teeth, and I was not consulted in advance.”

    Writers like me long to write lines like this. Wonderful phrasing!

  5. In my heady early days of born-again Christianity, when knowledge was being absorbed at a feverish clip, I couldn’t imagine how the simplicity and lack of stimulus that Michael talks about could have any meaning in life. Well there you go. It takes a significant passage of time, experience, and defeat to thoroughly begin to appreciate 1Corinthians 13.

    • Rick Ro. says

      Ditto. I look back at my early born-again years with a “glad I’ve moved on” shake of my head.

      • Rick Ro. says

        –> “I look back at my early born-again years with a ‘glad I’ve moved on’ shake of my head.”

        Slight edit: More appropriately, with a “glad He’s helped me move on” shake of my head. God’s role… Jesus’ role… the Holy Spirit’s role… they can’t be downplayed.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I couldn’t imagine how the simplicity and lack of stimulus that Michael talks about could have any meaning in life.

      Until Reality kicked in the door of your Christianese Safe Space.
      (Knocking all the Thomas Kincade prints off the walls.)

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I’m just a guy with a life, and life is full of failure and loss.

    In contrast with God’s Special Pets, the Uber-Spritual Uber-Christians who since they said the Sinner’s Prayer have had EVERYTHING break in their favor like an Author Self-Insert in bad fanfic – never a problem, never a single failure, never an instant of doubt, secure and serene in their unshakable FAITH FAITH FAITH. (Why, angels carry them everywhere so they never ever have to risk dashing their foot against a stone!) “O Ye of LITTLE Faith. Tsk. Tsk.”

    • Christiane says

      the fundamentalists had the WRONG ‘sinner’s prayer’, HEADLESS

      the REAL sinner’s prayer is in the Holy Gospels of Our Lord, here:

      “13 But the tax collector stood at a distance, unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven. Instead, he beat his breast and said,
      ‘GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER !’
      14 I tell you, this man, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (from the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 18)

      ‘GOD HAVE MERCY ON ME A SINNER !’
      imagine a proud ‘saved’ fundamentalist saying something like this instead of pointing the finger at those ‘other sinners’

      some early versions (short forms) of the REAL ‘sinner’s prayer’ have shown up like this:
      ‘Jesus Christ, Son, Savior, have mercy on us’

      or in orthodoxy, this may be seen:
      “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Yeah.
        The Sinner’s Prayer(TM) now strikes me as a direct knockoff of the Act of Contrition with an added step at the end.

        Just like The Four Spiritual Laws(TM) are the four chapters/section headings of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola.

  7. OMG – please, please please just give it a rest for one day.
    And bask in the heartfelt peace of Michael’s writing.

  8. Robert F says

    I often feel what Spencer is describing in this post, except that I’m unable to locate Jesus as well as he did. He speaks with assurance about Jesus, despite all the vicissitudes he’s experiencing; I find I can’t. I need a Jesus locator.

  9. Thanks for this. I so miss Michael’s writing and spirit and wisdom. And the older I get the more I appreciate it and the more I realize I am pretty much in the same space that Michael came to.