Letters From a Hospital Bed #21: Reflections From a 99 Year Old
Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.
April 7, 2022
As we approach this last Sunday of Lent, before Easter, we need to do so with some trepidation. In the events of Palm Sunday, we see the crowds enthralled by Jesus as He rode into the city. In no time, their praise had turned to jeers and cries of “Crucify Him, Crucify Him”! How quickly they turned. How weak their certainty in Messiah. How soon I find that I follow their lead and find my faith too shallow. It is so easy for us to become ‘habitual Christians’, to find ourselves in a kind of dream-walk where we have stopped choosing our faith as a daily rigour and it has become stale and motionless. We have stopped walking by faith and we have simply sat down, for too long.
This past week has been a precious milestone for me in a very tangible way. As I have written before, my arrival at this care hospital came about as a result of a fall in my apartment where I remained alone on the floor for many hours. It was a frightening time and I found that I could no longer take care of enough of my needs and so was very fortunate to find a space at this beautiful care hospital. Slowly but surely, the physical trainers (Dad calls them his ‘gymnasts’ – we try to keep a straight face!) have been pushing me to walk again and this week, for the first time in nearly a year, I walked without support, back to my room and settled in my ‘writing’ chair. It might not have been much, but for me, it was a triumph, and I was delighted to call my children and tell them of my recovery. (Editors Note: While his children are delighted at Dad’s new-found mobility, we now no longer have the same assurance that we know what he gets up to in light of his rather vigorous spirit of independence!)
This simple act of walking again that I have been fortunate enough to re-discover, is precisely the kind of reorientation, or widening, of being aroused, in a very tangible way from a ‘sleep’ of habitual faith, to which our Lenten reflection calls us. Just as I am reminded through the simple act of locomotion what it means to be more fully alive, so we need to become more conscious of all the riches that we have in Christ. As Jesus walks, his face set towards Jerusalem, as He chose life for us, so we are invited to to choose Life, vibrant, full-on, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other living! Just as Jesus exhorted Nicodemus, so we each need to be ‘born again’, to be re-captivated by the miracle of our identity in Christ, to actually live as if our lives have been redeemed. Imagine, we have been made anew! We are new creatures! For me, at 99, the simple act of walking across a room – something I have not done for nearly a year – is a glorious act of being reborn to walking! How much more do we each need to be re-born to our wearied and even lost faith. To the man at the pool of Siloam Jesus said so distinctly, ‘take up your bed and walk!’
In the evangelical tradition where the ‘sermon is all’, we often miss the hymns. I love many hymns! These poems of our faith, like the psalms, have been my precious companions these days. I can remember them. How fitting for this season of new birth is one of my favourites…
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best thought, by day or by night; Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word. I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord. Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.
High King of heaven, my victory won. May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's sun Heart of my own heart, whatever befall Still be my vision, O ruler of all.
This hymn is also a favourite of my 2 ½ year-old great-granddaughter, Addie, whose daddy sings it to her before all her sleeps. She and I have this in common. Perhaps you can find it helpful too. May the Lord meet you as you are still before Him. May he refresh your tired spirits. May you learn to leap again in your hearts of faith and let Christ’s vision and presence be yours.