From Michelle. 1 June, 2011.
Dear friends and family,
Steve and I forget that we cannot do things as we did before. This month, we got recklessly hungry for life, and we crammed our mouths full with it. The crowded schedule was a red flag we ignored and off we ran, high on the speed and the goodness of it all, until we looked at each other and realized that we are slower now. I imagine aging this way, our eternal spirits forced to make peace with the physical limitations conferred upon them by time. Steve is reminded in his body. My spirit is still tired and nudges me more quietly. Perhaps some space would be good. A dash of silence. A bit more prayer. I notice the breathlessness and realize that in all of the fine acrobatic maneuvering it took to get through our calendar, I forgot to breathe.
Tricked by all of the progress, we forget. I watch Steve glowing on the stage, preaching, a tireless ball of passion and energy. At night he is still illuminated by it, energized and inspired. It is a convincing mirage of what once was. The next day, however, his body reminds us both, nerves crackling and muscles aching. Slowing down is a discipline we are still learning.
While the injury is Steve’s the whole family must adjust to this unhurried pace. It takes awhile for stiffened fingers to fish keys out of a pocket, no matter how quickly the rest of us are tumbling toward the car, children jumping up and down, prematurely tugging on the locked door handles, and me a whirlwind of motherly hunting and gathering. No matter how late we are, we now amble up to our destination with a dignified gait.
Slowing down might be profitable. Remembering to breathe is beneficial. Steve once did a silent retreat for a month. He could not read, and aside from a brief morning interaction with his spiritual mentor, he spent his time in silence in a cabin in the woods. One day his assignment was that every time he breathed he should remember the Holy Spirit. For an entire day, Steve breathed and remembered the Holy Spirit. It changed him.
I try to remember this as I reign in the desire to rush through this transition. The details are not yet ready to be harvested: plane tickets, moving companies, housing plans. Restless, unfinished checklist in hand, I might forget to breathe. Looking up the word breath in my concordance, I discover that the very last verse in the psalms is: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6) Indeed, there is much to praise with this breath of mine, if I can but remember. Steve walking without a cane, Steve preaching, Steve holding my hand with evermore pliant fingers, the tears of friends and strangers as he tells the story. And I know in my heart that there is more to come.
During the early stages of Steve’s paralysis, he could not breathe easily. The nerves did not fire up his belly and chest muscles, and his breath was shallow. Respiratory therapists gave him exercises and trained me to help him cough, something he was unable to do on his own. It was an almost violent gesture, not unlike a Heimlich maneuver, that forced enough air from his lungs for a good strong breath. Unlike Steve, I take breathing for granted. I run too fast and get breathless, as I did this month. Alternately, I treat the details of my life more like heavy stones of great significance than like a breath, here today and gone tomorrow. The details will come. The healing will come. In the meantime, I have to breathe and remember the Holy Spirit.
Remembering, I look up a verse from Steve’s favorite psalm, psalm 46. In verse 10, there is the famous verse: “be still and know that I am God.” The Message translates it this way: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.” I look and I breathe and I know.
Thank you, God.
PS Thanks so much to all those who continually ask for prayer requests. First, we give thanks that Steve again managed (with delight!) a full day of preaching at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue. You can see his sermon at: www.belpres.org. Our greatest hope and prayer continues to be for full healing for Steve, which includes healing in his hands, strength in his legs, an absence of nerve pain, and returned sensation to his body. We pray with hope but also with the deepest gratitude for all that we have already received. We would also be so grateful for prayers for our return to Manila. Every detail has yet to unfold in a short amount of time, and amidst our own travel to see family and friends one last time. Please pray for our congregation in Manila as they too prepare their hearts and minds for this transition. As always, your prayers are deeply treasured by us. Thank you!