From Michelle. October 5, 2011.
Dear friends and family,
We have now been in the Philippines for two months. The tide of details that inundated us has now receded. Directly following my last update a virus took me in its grip and would not loose me for almost four weeks. Ironically, it provided perspective. I simply could not accomplish the things that needed to be accomplished and quickly what was necessary became merely optional. I was miserable and exhausted which quickly led me to the feet of Jesus. As the illness dragged on, compassion arose for those I know struggling with cancer, old age, and prolonged hospitalization. I knew myself to be fortunate. I “practiced the presence” and “put on perspective”.
I was struck by how often I would busy myself and forget that God was there. Never intrusive, it is easy to shut him out. When I allowed my imagination to embrace what was real, I knew limitless grace in the room. And yet even in my pitiful, inconsequential suffering, I rarely availed myself of the riches a mere heartbeat away. It was the treasure hidden in the trivial, the bread for my hungry hours. And yet I often did worse than to refuse it; I forgot it. This humbling realization alone was a gift fashioned from those weary hours. I am stumbling into a deeper, heartfelt desire for the experience of Brother Lawrence: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”
Steve and I have both pressed deeply into God these months. Yesterday, our worst fears were confirmed when a physical therapist noted that Steve’s walking ability has deteriorated. As if to punctuate this discovery, Steve suffered his first real fall that evening. The children and I were hiding and giggling, planning to surprise him as he walked through the door, only to hear a thud and find him lying on the floor. Fortunately, he was not badly injured, but such falls present a real danger. Steve is unable to catch himself the way an able-bodied person would, and so he falls with great weight and little protection. An injury would present a significant setback as it would hamper deeply needed therapy.
In ways both large and small, we are living the verses Steve will be preaching in coming weeks: “Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also be patient, for the coming of the Lord is at hand… As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:7-8, 10-11.
Among still unpacked boxes, when my illness dragged on, and most notably in Steve’s setbacks, I have heard the whisper: be patient. It is spoken with all compassion. It is spoken with promise. It emanates from love and light. And yet it requires something of me. To surrender to the moment, though I want it to pass. To trust for healing, though healing is unreasonable. To hope for the future, though hope might hurt. To still my soul though it clamors for resolution. Be patient.
The wheelchair still sits in the driveway. We have often debated getting rid of it. But the reality is that we have not yet been able to rule out the possibility that Steve will need it again one day. I do not believe this to be so. And yet it is a fresh and daily reminder of our need, as well as of his mercy. The verse commands patience. It applauds steadfastness in suffering. But it ends this way: “The Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Grace and love are always here. Water pours out unendingly to quench our thirst. If only we can pause long enough to drink.
An old hymn says it best:
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.