Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 2 - All Souls' Day - Michael Spencer, Internet Monk

I once met Michael but lost the nerve to tell him what his writing had meant to me. "After all," I reasoned, "he probably hears it all the time and I don't want him to think of me as 'just another one of his fans.'" So, I didn't tell him what his work had done for me and I missed a unique opportunity to share with Michael what the Spirit had done through him without him ever being aware. Then, Michael died and left the rest of us with our memories, his writing, and the undeniable confidence that when Michael crossed that thin divide between this world and the next, he was welcomed into the arms of his Lord (even if Jesus might have had to correct him lovingly on some things). You see, Michael was many things--a writer, a preacher, a teacher, a pastor, a Reds fan--but to me he always seemed to be a big-hearted guy who cared deeply for people who struggled to find God in this world. Michael was a friend of the doubter and the denier, not because he hoped to reason them back to the faith with cunning arguments but because they shouldn't have to walk that path alone.

I had walked away from the Faith and from Jesus before I ever read a word that Michael had written but so many of the doubts, fears, and frustrations he wrote about could have been my own words. When I first started my wandering way back to Jesus and the Faith, I couldn't stand to read nearly any Christian writer. In fact, for quite a while I could only stomach the writings of Thomas Merton--so I read what I could get my hands on. When I look back now, I suppose that it was the loving and tender spirit of Merton that made it palatable for my wounded tastes. But as my tastes expanded, I was led to read some of Michael's writing at his website (internetmonk.com). Michael's essays were the first words by a living Christian writer that I could stand. There was something in the way he wrote and in the tenderness with which he addressed my particular wounds unknowingly that somehow made it okay for him to help teach me how to believe again.

Michael died earlier this year (April 5, 2010), after a brief and bitter encounter with cancer. Shortly before his death, he finished working on his first book which was published recently. You can (and should) buy a copy and read it. He was not alive to see it published but I am confident that such a thing doesn't bother him now. Countless better accounts have been written than what I offer here in his memory. You can read what Tall Skinny Kiwi has to say here or what Trevin Wax has to say here. The Associated Baptist Press had something to say here, and his biography remains on his website here. His friend Alan Creech added this, but perhaps the most touching remembrance of which I know is the eulogy delivered at his funeral by David Head--a transcript is recorded here. What I've thrown seems to be more about me than about Michael but in a way, his impact on my life tells more about him than I could ever hope to tell.

So, Michael, this is me saying "Thank you." I'm another one of your fans and like so many of us, I give thanks to God for your life and your words--maybe next year Cincinnati will have what it takes.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

That was great. That sucks to lose a writer that speaks to you. It's like a much more important cancellation of a series you love.

I know what you mean on the "not wanting to be just another fan thing" too. I did that with Rob Bell and I'm pretty sure I came off as a tool.

Very touching. Thank you.