Monday with Michael Spencer
A Couple of Surprising Encouragements
Today, I offer a couple of stories about the grace that’s all around us, that appears in small ways, and might appear more often if we prayed and took notice of where Jesus said the Kingdom appears.
On Thursday, almost everyone I work with was at a waterpark about an hour away, including my family. I opted to stay home and get work done, as school is about to start and I am way behind on several projects that have to be completed soon.
While the entire staff is gone, a volunteer group from one of our supporting churches comes and does whatever needs to be done in order to keep everything safe and running in the absence of all the support staff. These are people who come a very long way just to do a servant ministry on this one day.
So I was on campus and had to go to the main office for a moment, and outside that building was one man from this group, enjoying the beauty of the day on our nearly deserted campus. I passed him going in and spoke briefly, and on my way out I did the same. He was friendly, but it was all small talk.
So as I approached my car across the street from the bench where he was sitting in the yard, he says, “I like that Internet Monk web site.”
Now, a bit of a detour. I’m not the Internet Monk around here. In fact, while I know a lot of my co-workers read the site, not all do so in a supportive way. So not only do I never mention it, I really make an effort to completely keep it under the radar as much as possible.
But it’s important to know that a good bit of what I do hear is from those few who are offended by something I say. And that has caused me endless hours of stress and confusion over whether I should stop writing or not. My choice, obviously, is to keep writing, because God has given me hundreds of thousands of readers and what happens at this site is, if my mail is accurate, overwhelmingly positive.
I’ve decided that God made me who I am: a communicator and a writer. I can be a better one in my context, but I won’t ever cease to be one.
But I just never know what someone who is a supporter of our ministry thinks, because it’s the nature of things that it’s the criticism that is brought to my attention.
So here sits this Baptist man, a middle aged deacon, and I didn’t even know he knew my name. And he wants to say to me that he, for one, likes this web site and likes what I write.
I turned around and was silent for a moment, then I said “Well, thank you very much. It’s good to hear that.”
He walked toward me and said, “I’ve had some Bible questions I wanted to ask you….” and away we went on the witch at Endor.
I needed that.
My wife was at work, and the pastor of the local Baptist church came by to talk print shop business.
Being a pastor, the conversation turned to church, and he said “I know you’re going through a transition right now, and I wanted to give you something.”
Background: My wife has been an important part of our local Baptist church. Played the piano for services when asked. Played piano for choir rehearsals a lot. Sang in the choir. She’s loved and liked by the staff and people.
Knowing that they now know she’s going to the Roman Catholic Church, and knowing that I’m deeply struggling with it as a husband and a minister, it’s been difficult for her to know how people feel about her. Especially the pastor. (These are Southern Baptists, who aren’t exactly famous for ecumenical fervor.)
So she was expecting an anti-Catholic tract or some sort of Protestant apologetic book. She’s had some minor brushes with unfriendly comments already from some who attend the church.
He held out to her a crucifix. An older one from its look. A gift for her.
“My step-father was a Catholic, and this belonged to him. I thought you would appreciate it.”
And then he offered to come by and pray with us anytime, and to be pastor to our family in this unusual situation.
My list of people who have responded to all of this with any measure of simple Christian compassion had five names on it. Now I’ll be adding a sixth.
• • •
There is discouragement in my world, but if I am honest, most of it is smaller than I make it. I am the one who amplifies it most of the time.
As I’ve learned to listen more and more to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I’m learning that Jesus was very dependable when he taught us that the Kingdom of God is upon is. Right here, right now, close by.