From Sean. June 26, 2010.
I arrived at the hospital today just as Steve was saying goodbye to a beloved friend. I left the hospital a few hours later as Steve and Michelle were enjoying time with friends visiting from New York. In between, other beloved friends from Manila also stopped by. It was Sunday, a rest day, and while Steve’s rest is still a priority, he just loves people.
Steve and Michelle are rich in friends. And I know firsthand that many of these friends are quite different from one another; they are from diverse parts of the globe, with different languages, cultures, personalities, and even different faiths. There are no doubt multiple reasons why so many have chosen to surround the Ruetschles with unceasing prayer, kindness, and generosity. Lately I’ve been thinking of just one of those reasons.
In one form or another, most every website comment, guestbook-or-facebook post, letter written, or personal visit has included some assurance of prayer. Or many times, actual prayer. Thousands around the world regularly stop and pray for Steve; interceding on his behalf. Some write in, claiming to know exactly what God is going to do for Steve; others are not so sure; but in every case they are all generously and passionately interceding for him.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, in his book “Beginning to Pray”, wrote:
“Interceding does not mean reminding God of things he has forgotten to do. It is placing ourselves at the heart of a troubled situation…. We often intercede. We pray to God to be merciful and kind to those in need. But intercession is more than this.”
“Intercede” comes from the Latin, intercedere, meaning literally to “go between.”
Metropolitan Bloom goes on to talk about presence. That,
“being present in the heart of a troubled situation alters it profoundly because God is then present with us through our faith. Wherever we are, at home with our family, with friends when a quarrel is about to begin, at work or even simply in the street… we can recollect ourselves and say, ‘Lord I believe in you, come and be among us’. And by this act of faith… we can intercede with God who has promised his presence when we ask for it.”
This last week of Steve’s physical rehab has been, well, incredible. Each day brought something new… movement from a toe; the wiggle of a finger; a trip to the zoo; the ability to lift a leg ever so slightly. These small movements have been very encouraging for Steve (for everyone!). And yet in context (and without diminishing the encouragement!) this is still “a troubled situation“.
So often, when tragedy strikes people respond with the most common of phrases… “I can’t imagine…”. Personally, when hearing that phrase I often doubt the truth of it. As I see it, people actually have rather remarkable imaginations. We can, in fact, imagine a great deal. And when we can imagine, we can be present with just that much more compassion and capacity.
With many of the out-of-town (or out-of-country) guests who have come to visit Steve, there are moments when… in order not to develop pressure sores, Steve has to be turned in his bed by the nurses; or he has to be hoisted out of bed in a sling and placed in his wheelchair; or his catheter bag has to be emptied; or he’s so tired that he needs someone to feed him. Without fail the friends in the room are gracious, strong, and kind in the moment, but I can see in their eyes that they are in fact imagining Steve’s (and his family’s) suffering. And they not only imagine, but also clearly choose to place themselves in the heart of a troubled situation, in order to intercede on his behalf with both their presence and their prayer.
Many around the world have said that they are praying for Steve because in one way or another he “interceded”… placed himself in the heart of a troubled situation… for them. “Prayer is the end of isolation.” We carry one another’s burdens. And whether it’s a little girl in Indonesia, or a pastor in Uganda, or a business owner in Seattle, or a professor in the Philippines, or a sunday school class in Tokyo, or a mom and dad in Ohio; a community of people around the world has been formed to help carry Steve’s burdens through prayer.
And ultimately, it’s not the “power of prayer” that must not be underestimated; it is the power of the One who is love, and who so loved the world, and who’s presence alters each of us as we intercede for one another, wherever or whoever we are, in all of our mutual suffering and vulnerability.