I have not said too much about my feelings on what is happening to him. The truth is, I haven't known what to say.
This latest update from his wife Denise has settled in the reality a bit deeper. It still has not settled in totally. It may never. He's apparently been given 6 months to a year to live. Denise in the comments says "My calling now is to help him die."
I've never met Michael face to face. The Internet is a weird thing, isn't it? But I've
From the beginning of my readership of him, I admired and loved him and found in him some quality I still can't name. Michael wears his feelings on his shirt sleeves. That is a recipe for early retirement in the blogosphere, especially in those early years of the burgeoning God-blog community. It was a tight-knit community but a turbulent one. Lots of flames and fisking. Back in those days, the bestselling authors and megachurch pastors weren't blogging yet. It was just us nerds. It was a small pool and it wasn't hard to be a big fish if you could write your way out of a paper bag. The group blog I started with (and still blog with) was for a couple of years the 7th most linked-to blog in the Christian blogosphere. The iMonk was always in the top ten. Boar's Head had been around for a while. Challies was there but he wasn't "Challies" yet. Dan Edelen. Adrian Warnock. (Anybody remember Darren Rowse? What about Mac Swift?)
Most of us are long gone from the top whatevers. The Thinklings aren't even in the top 500, I'd wager. But iMonk's still there. Why?
Because of that something. A relentless focus on Jesus is the main draw, for me. Would Jesus like this? Would he say this? Would he recognize this as something he started? Those are the questions he's been asking for a decade. But lots of people are asking those questions too. What makes Michael different? There's a vulnerability and a transparency there that has gotten him in trouble, provoked derision and disdain and denouncement. He is prone to depression. He can whine like a baby. He can be inconsistent. He can lean on a double standard when it comes to debates. I don't agree with Michael on more than a few things, but his resilience and his rawness -- which was never, ever, ever posturing -- earned him my loyalty. After a short time, he didn't have to earn it any more. He just had it. Step to him, and I'd be liable to cut your ear off. (And that's my own character flaw, not his.)
I guess I did say a lot. I didn't sit down planning to. The bottom line is, Michael Spencer is the Internet Monk. For many of us, he's our guy. He's the resident monk in our place. (I don't know if that makes sense.) The iMonk is our Larry Norman meets Norm from "Cheers." Or something.
He's Michael. He's a child of the most high King, and therefore my brother, but also he's my friend. And he's in a valley from which most of us can't hear him. Our monk has been forced into a vow of silence. I don't like that.
Michael and I share a love for Luther, but he likes monastics and mystics, while I prefer the Puritans. :-)
Here's the titular prayer from The Valley of Vision:
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
that every good work or thought found in me
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley.
If you know anything about Michael's "real life" -- and I hate putting that phrase in scare quotes because Michael is one of the realest guys on the interwebs -- you know he's one of the most prominent missional guys out there. He has been steadily laying up his treasures in heaven. Some of that treasure is in the eternal hearts of those of us who know Jesus more deeply and love him more strongly because of Michael's pirate radio prose.
I'm praying for healing. Because I'm thankful for his gift and I want more of it.