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 14, 2022
The remarkable events of Easter will soon be upon us and I find that I approach the immediacy of these special moments in the Christian calendar with a question; “is this my last?” While we all live with the reality of such questions, I find it more tangible. Yet, with each day, my sense of completion grows ever deeper. It is good. It is in the way of things and as Good Friday beckons, I find that I can better enter into Christ’s deep sleep of dependence upon His Father, even the sleep of His death.
In the past weeks, I have been finding that moment between wakefulness and sleep to be filled with music. Whether I am dreaming, and realizing the dream, or in a kind of reverie, I don’t know, and I’m not sure that matters much. But I keep hearing a hymn that was one of my father’s favourites “The day thou gavest Lord is ended”. I hear it as being sung sweetly by angels. Their voices move me to tears. I wonder from where come these melodies.
It was later in his life that my own father drew to my attention his love for this hymn. It intrigues me that it so comes to me, late in my own life. My father and I did not see all eye to eye. Far from it. My last remembrance of him is having a debate about the role of music in worship. There we were, father and son, on a train platform, arguing. It was my last earthly remembrance of him. And yet, here I am some 63 years since I last spoke with him audibly, and yet I hear him now. These words have become like a pillow, inviting me to lay down my head. So close. So dear. I just want to sleep, to respond to the Lord’s invitation to dwell with him eternally. And I catch a faint glimpse not only of the suffering Christ, but the trusting Christ as he cried out “into your hands I commit my spirit”. I am thankful for this rehearsal in the quietness of my room. Here is this hymn that beckons my sleep…
The day you gave us, Lord, is ended, the darkness falls at your request; to you our morning hymns ascended, your praise shall sanctify our rest.
We thank you that your Church, unsleeping while earth rolls onward into light, through all the world her watch is keeping and never rests by day or night.
As over continent and island each dawn leads to another day, the voice of prayer is never silent, nor do the praises die away.
So be it, Lord! Your throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away; your kingdom stands and grows forever ‘til all thy creatures own they sway.
The theme of this hymn, special to me, and to my father before me, and I hope an encouragement to you, echoes Psalm 113. “from the rising of the sun until the going down of the same, the Lord’s name be praised”. It echoes the command recorded in Genesis that out of darkness the light shall come, and it reflects the vision of John in Revelation 5:13 that “every creature which is in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are under the sea, and all that is in them saying “blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the lamb for ever and ever.”
I know of nothing quite so trusting as to fall asleep, to yield consciousness to the One who holds our identity secure in His knowing of us. The darkness falls at His request…but so does the Light come forth! As He is Risen, so shall we each one day. That is why this sweet pillow of praise comforts so. May it be for each of you also.
With resurrection hope!