iMonk's Confessional


A couple of weeks ago I linked to Michael Spencer's essay "With Regrets, All My Love," in which he let us look over his shoulder as he wrote to his wife and children with regret about the way his pursuit of the ministry had hurt their life as a family. (Please don't bother trying to find it; it's not there.1 Actually, it is there, but password protected. Go to his home page and e-mail him if you want access.) I just linked to it, without comment, but I linked to it because I thought it had some important things to say about vocation and family.

For his openness, Spencer has been hammered by some of his fellow Christian bloggers. One jumped on a comment he made on another blog, on an unrelated issue (the "Emergent Church" movement), writing, "[Y]our hatred of the Christian life (starting with your own) disqualifies you from being a reasonable commentator." "With Regrets, All My Love" was the smoking gun. The same blogger wrote in a later comment, "It is my contention that because Mr. Spencer hates his life as it is, and hates the church which caused his current life, his opinions about the state of the church and church culture are suspect."

We Tulsans hear that sort of thing all the time, don't we? "Because you've voiced your frustration at the way the poor leadership of Tulsa's establishment has damaged our city's beauty, history, safety, and economic viability, you are disqualified for reasons of being a naysayer, a grump, a negativist, from voicing your opinion on city policy. Only contented people may offer criticism."

Without wading into the whole ugly argument, which I spent way too much time reading this afternoon, I will say it reminds me of what sharks do when there's blood in the water.

I for one am glad that Michael bothers to write the occasional confessional essays. For those of us who aren't perfect (and acknowledge the fact2), it helps to read that someone else has had the same struggles and trials and that nevertheless God hasn't given up on him or vice versa.

Michael has helpfully collected links to about a dozen of his confessional essays, including one about coming to terms with his dad's depression, and one about his marriage after 25 years.

Michael's writing reminds me a lot of Mike Yaconelli's essays in the Wittenburg Door, a magazine I discovered and read in college. The Door and Martin Luther, between them, helped me believe in Christianity when I could no longer place my confidence in the hothouse variety of the faith taught by our college campus ministry.

The victorious Christian life. The Spirit-filled life. Entire sanctification. Promise keeping. Covenant faithfulness. In a state of grace. The vocabulary changes from one century to another, from one denomination to another, but the illusion persists that we can make the brokenness go away while we are still in this flesh. And the corollary is that if I still see brokenness in my own life, I must not belong to Christ. And that notion drives some to denial and some to despair. We are taught to give our testimonies -- before Christ I was a mess, but now Jesus is on the throne of my life and all my dots are neatly lined up. You can get the impression that Jesus is only for those who can do a thorough job of cleaning themselves up and keeping themselves tidy.

I'm glad that there are writers like Michael Spencer who remind us that God still cares about us and even uses us in our brokenness.

Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent. It's one of the two penitential seasons in the church year. As we prepare to celebrate the Light entering the world, we need to prepare our hearts to appreciate that Light by considering the darkness that is in the world and still in our own hearts. It ought to lead us to give thanks for the First Advent 2000 years ago and to long for the Second Advent, when sin and death will be no more, and every tear will be wiped away.

Those of you who have managed to conquer your sin and weakness on your own, I don't imagine Advent and Christmas will mean much to you.

1It's too late to say they're sorry. How would he know? Why should he care?
2Confessing guilt for petty annoyances doesn't count. "Why, of course, I acknowledge I'm still a sinner. Sometimes I forget and leave the seat up, ha, ha."

UPDATE 11/28: Dan Paden at No Blog of Significance and Joel at On the Other Foot.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 26, 2005 10:48 PM.

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