Willing to give it

From Sean. 20 August, 2010.

I’ll be in Portland over the next several days and this is my last night at Harborview. As the departure date for Steve approaches there will no doubt be more video, reflections, and posts about Steve’s last two months in the hospital. A look back at this time will, I think, be good for Steve himself. He (for obvious reasons) doesn’t remember very much about those early days and weeks. We have much of it documented in photos and video, and so I imagine an even deeper integration of the story of these months will take place for him as he’s able to see the images and hear the reflections and stories from friends.

As the transition for Steve into home-life with Miche and the boys approaches, I’ve thought a great deal recently about time. Or at least about how we are always located in every given moment with a story of what has/is past, along with a constant shaping of our present based on the story we have about the future we’re living into.

We publish ourselves… as story… in time… and the responsibility (freedom, really) to write our lives as revelation and gift is with each of us. The pen is a living thing.

The first day Steve entered Harborview he was able to move a small toe… once. That was about it. He was emotionally fragile, physically broken, and all of it immersed in uncertainty. Today, many of his major muscle groups are firing–signals are getting through. He can move his legs against gravity; there is tricep strength; increased finger movement; toes are curling; urinary function has returned… in essence, Steve continues to learn to live in a very different body than he had two months ago. And more… he’s learning to live in a body that continues to change with each passing week and with each gain in strength.

The next months are going to be very hard for Steve. Physically hard. He is going to work and work to continue to maximize these physical gains… to push and teach/learn and shape his body back into a state of independence. Where this will ultimately lead is, well… going to be an adventure, and he’s geared up for it in every way. As is Michelle!

And I can’t wait to see it unfold.

But what does that have to do with time, and the story of this time?

I’ll admit to being a broken record about tragedy making things transparent, and given the irrevocably contingent and temporary nature of everybody’s place in our world, well…

… tonight as Steve and I laid in our respective hospital beds and talked into the dark about these last months, I confessed that for me the central plot in all of this has really NOT been Steve’s body… broken or recovering. The tragedy of this accident; quadriplegia; rehab; recovery, etc… the physical drama of what is happening to Steve is all, well, extraordinary no doubt, but I think actually third or fourth on my list.

First! First… Steve and Michelle’s marriage. Two as a living one. They will shy away from any praise… but their marriage is an announcement of grace in the world. I ask Michelle what gets her through each day. Love is immediately on her lips. At the scene of the accident as Steve lay on the side of the road thinking he was going to die…. love was on his lips. And you can’t separate out their marriage from their parenting. Their boys. This love is all one and the same. Unconcealed in all of their grace and suffering as an icon of generative, immeasurable love that endures for one another.

Second… the catalyst and influence of community. Your sustained, unreasonable generosity turning evil into good at each unexpected turn so far. You know who you are. With so many thousands following this story from every continent, I wonder about the influence and catalyst of your compassion; of what is made possible when the strong and weak carry each other across so many boundaries.

And third, I suppose, would be Steve’s spinal cord and all that follows.

Some may protest that God is somehow missing from my list. Impossible!

This takes me back to thoughts I’ve been having on ‘time’.

(If) the gospel is true (not as a mere ‘proposition’ but rather an encounter: the encounter) then eschatologically speaking, isn’t Christ always inviting: for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear? Mine are definitely dim… but I still can’t deny that in the transparency of this tragedy I’ve heard and seen at least the shadows of what remains through the daily contingency of it all:

Faith, hope, and love remain… and the greatest of these is not Steve’s spinal cord or insurance policy or income or housing status (even as I am in awe of the struggle these have been). It’s this if I can say it:

The body will break and no matter the severity, love outpoured from or to or with the broken, is a resurrection. And the resurrected can never truly go back. And resurrection is not, perhaps, inevitable. It requires something. For those willing to give it, with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Christos Anesti. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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  • Raallender

    Dear Sean, Thank you for the gift of insightful and life understanding reflections. I add you to the list of God’s presence. All that you have done and continue to do speaks of the resurrection. Your friendship to Steve and Michelle is one of the deepest and dearest love and care for one another I have ever seen. We remember to pray for you and Annie as well. Thank you for carrying all that you do.

  • Jayoder

    Amen Sean.!! Of all these, Love is the Greatest.

  • Carole_madison

    Following the journey has been a growth experience for us too. I have read Michelle’s musings with complete admiration for the way Scripture is an absolute integral part of her breath. We, as believers,l always hope it will be, but don’t really know until we have met head-on a life threatening challenge.
    We were actually transferred to the USA from Asia years ago and we came “kicking and screaming”, questioning why the Lord would allow people who were “called” to Asia to be moved to the USA where all can hear the gospel. Then our 19 year old son was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and after that we gave thanks with a grateful heart that God saw fit to move us where we could readily get the best treatment available. We had over a year of crisis mode where the faithfulness of God and the body of believers ministering to us, enabled us to survive and overcome. Our son is now 40 years old, healthy, and lives in Asia.
    We pray almost daily for your entire family but especially for Steve, that God would continue to heal those nerve pathways and make a new “normal” for you that draws you all closer into his Love.We look forward with anticipation to your continued updates.
    Carole and Terry Madison (formerly from Manila and HK) now in Denver, CO

  • JohnCarol3

    Beautiful, profound words, which speak to my heart and nurture the soul. Thank you for sharing with us from the very beginning of this journey–your selfless recounting of the story has set the tone for all of us who have been there from far away. You have lifted up the Name and grace of our Lord, and I pray that you will be blessed for blessing us. I don’t think that you and Steve and Michelle and the others who have been an integral part of this experience, can ever know the huge impact you’ve had on our lives and those of many others. I know that many mutual friends in the Philippines, as well as around the world, have been blessed and learned so much by reading this blog. We’ve all been there with you all, loving and praying and hoping and crying and trusting that God would restore Steve as He wills. His Grace is sufficient! And may the peace of God be with you as you serve Him faithfully.

  • baby

    All of us reading this blog have so much to thank you for. Pastor Steve is so much loved by the UCM community and setting this up had connected us with him. We truly appreciate your blogs, especially this one. I personally feel the depth of your love and care for this wonderful person. You are a blessing to Rueutchles and to all of us who have been following the updates on Pastor Steve. God bless you.

  • Heather Crummett

    Steve’s family and friends have been so articulate in speaking the gospel out of that Harborview room, and I am grateful for that and for this post. It’s mind blowing to see Steve standing in the pool, literally to see those muscles starting to take commands from the brain again. But the story has from the outset been larger than a broken spine. Love, community, and the present and future resurrection of living in Christ – this story is unfolding for all of us who follow this blog.