From Michelle. May 11, 2013.
Dear friends and family,
Three months have passed since my last update. It is commonly said of the early years with children that the days are long but the years are short, and I find this to be true of life for Steve and I generally. Each day seems insurmountable and yet in the blink of an eye the path behind us is strewn with such “insurmountable” peaks. As the years behind grow longer, the benefit of this perspective seems to be to take the sometimes daunting view less seriously and simply keep walking.
I fail to write because the ups and downs related to Steve’s injury have a monotony all their own. I struggle to describe what does not change. Even the darker days when he feels he cannot physically cope come and go with unvarying consistency. My spirit has learned to bend in order not to break. I tread lightly, knowing that tomorrow will be different. Just as predictably another day will come where his body seems to rise above itself, to conquer its familiar limitations. Inevitably, that day too will pass, returning us to what we know, and then to worse.
Steve’s greatest achievement each day is the simple commitment to rise. At night, with gratitude, he lays his broken instrument down. Our days are book-ended with this rising and falling. I was reminded recently of the simplicity of our lives when someone asked what we were doing for fun on a Friday night. The thought had become strange to me. Except for weddings and funerals, committee and council meetings, our evenings wind down with uneventful regularity. If you peered into the windows of our home most evenings after 8:30, you would find one solitary room alight. Each day is a mountain, and at its end, we are, quite simply spent. In our own private journey little changes now, but the depth of the disciplines and lessons, etched deeper and deeper with each day we simply put our feet to the path, one in front of the other.
Precious detours occur when we align our steps with others. Thanks to Steve’s line of work, these diversions happen often, lending both purpose and perspective. What stuns me repeatedly is how much suffering is there. Every time I think about an elderly gentleman in our church who lost his wife to cancer last week I want to weep. Every time I see dear elderly members come to church, wrestling bodies addled by age and disease, my heart aches. Every week I meet with women struggling in their marriages, lonely in their transplanted lives in Manila, wrestling with children who are not thriving, struggling with wretched histories and life-threatening health challenges. Due to Steve’s accident, we get emails regularly from individuals enduring the overwhelming losses from spinal cord injuries. This week, we mourn the passing of a former associate pastor, gruesomely murdered in his home in Kuala Lumpur. As we study the book of Amos as a church, we are looking hard at themes of poverty, human trafficking, greed and injustice. Examples are easy to find in the city at our doorstep. Sometimes, as we sing during worship after an Amos sermon, I cover my face with my hair to hide the weeping.
As we navigate these sorrows, I have been looking at Romans 12:9-21 as a guide. Certain phrases jump out. ‘Let love be genuine.’ ‘Outdo one another in showing honor.’ ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’ ‘Bless those who persecute you.’ ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.’ ‘Never be wise in your own sight.’ ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ I have been mining these verses like a prospector during a gold rush. Each day another nugget is tucked away. When traded into daily life, I am rich.
The journey is hard. Many days, I walk alongside suffering much worse than mine. Knowing my own bankruptcy, and that of so many others besides, drives me to look for the nuggets that make these seasons rich. I am not instantly transformed, nor fixed by what I find. But these disciplines and lessons are precious, golden. My unruly heart has come to know their immeasurable worth, the vast treasure that is godly wisdom. Patience, trust, perseverance, hope, faith. This compass does not waiver. One step at a time. It is all I have to sustain and all I have to offer. I stake my life on what I cannot see and direct my path on truths that are not my own. One day, all will be made right. Until then, we forge on through the mess, trusting that our hope is not in vain, finding nuggets in the dirt.
Some days are easier than others. The important thing is to keep on walking and not take our view too seriously. Greater things are at work, eternal things. Like sand, these countless days and stories pass. The days are long but the years are fleeting. As Amos said, “Seek the Lord, and live.”