From Michelle. August 2nd, 2013.
Dear friends and family,
After two months on the road, we are settling back into our lives in Manila. Although we had an amazing time with dearly missed friends and family, I confess that it feels good to settle back into a familiar setting and routine, and especially to pick up once more the reigns of ministry, which will never cease to feel like an enormous privilege.
While we were away, we crossed the three year anniversary of Steve’s accident. It passed with little fanfare. In fact, I had to remind Steve of the date on the day itself. This uneventful passing gave me quiet joy, knowing that the accident no longer defines us, though it continues to deeply mark us. I had expected to stop writing by this time, especially as our lives relate specifically to quadriplegia, but too many people urged me to continue to record the journey, and so, here I am, three years in, still writing.
Looking back over three years, I am surprised to note that while our physical experience of life has been in decline, our spiritual trajectory has been one of growth. I have written before that vacations underscore the limitations of Steve’s paralysis. Before he joined us on our trip, the boys and I sailed, hiked, camped, fished and generally fed ourselves on the great outdoors. Once Steve joined us, the circumference of our activities narrowed significantly, a shift more easily navigated by the sheer pleasure of having him with us. However, living life in these narrower confines requires a different level of intentionality. Energy and movement are not casually spent. We have to be more creative in engaging our children and each other. Relational interactions supersede the kind of gallivanting and adventuring we used to so casually hurl into our days. While this is challenging when we are abroad, at home this pushes us into steady and predictable rhythms. We pray more than we ever did before. We pay attention because we are humbled. We slow down because we must.
For me, both the slowing down and the humbling has meant more time in scripture. Strangely, the Old Testament has been a source of endless challenge, delight and comfort. Perhaps the vastness of the arc of time it covers, the mystery of its content, and the endless suffering in its pages puts the shadow of my own life in perspective. More potently, the desert journey of the Israelites and the forefathers of the faith is more relatable, the great gaps of time between each miracle or manifestation of God more interesting, and the great battles more apt to reflect current spiritual realities.
Lately, the book of Joshua is where you will find me. It is the story of God’s fulfillment of a long ago given promise. Until the people were ready to step into it, they wandered in the desert. For decades. Stepping into the promise required an enormous and active faith, entering into battle believing in victory though all of the physical evidence declared inevitable loss. Three years into our journey, I am gathering myself up for that kind of belief. Ironically, what fuels my courage is a greater trust in God’s goodness than I ever had before.
How can we walk through fire and yet grow in our knowledge that God is good? Somehow, I have always known that God, though omnipotent, was not the author of this fire. To the contrary, he bends gently toward us, the God of the universe drawing near. It is difficult to describe how I know his presence. Every glimpse surprises me, a combination of holy glory and tender kindness that is the exact juxtaposition we see in an infinite cosmos and a finite cross, something so large and mysterious and yet so humble and deeply connected to our humanity that it cannot ever be adequately rendered in human terms. This I know: where God’s reign is complete there are neither pain nor tears. That is not here. Like a scratched and roughened diamond in a glowing crown, this earth is ours to polish or destroy, and we make our bed with evil as often as with glory. There is a greater setting within which we find ourselves, however. It seems almost foolish until we look at the stars.
The book of Joshua is a story of faith fulfilled, of deliverance into a promised land, after a messy and needlessly circuitous journey. It ends in victory, but it is replete with blood and gore, risk, sweat, pain. Our lives are no different. Scrawled on the mirror in my bathroom right now is the famous line from Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.” This is what we have. This is what we know, while everything else remains uncertain. Glory resides with you and with me. It never leaves but waits patiently for us to be ready to receive it. Somehow, by grace alone, I am more ready than before to do battle for the promise. I can taste the victory, though I do not see it. For I know more than ever before that Goodness is at my side.