Letters From a Hospital Bed #24: 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 28, 2022
I have been reflecting these past weeks as I triumph in my recovered ability to walk, that there exists a crushing injustice of which, at 99, I am a most unworthy beneficiary. My life has been full, mostly safe, extraordinarily fulfilling, rich in mercies and people and memories and now I am enjoying immensely the renewed pleasures of simply walking around a table, down hallways, greeting many friends, old and new. Yet, at the very same time as an immeasurably blessed old man in Vancouver, relishes in the spring sunshine, harmless young men and children are gunned down, bombed out of their homes, driven to flee for their lives…if they are the lucky ones. The dissonance in all this stuns me into incomprehension and numbs my ability to even process what I see and hear. Yet numbness is the very quality I reject so vigorously even as it helps me cope.
Some years ago, I came across this hymn, which perhaps better than many, frames my cry to the Lord as I resist ambivalence, yet cannot comprehend the scale of misery in Ukraine. The words of this hymn, which dates from the 1980’s, were written by Shirley Murray who said “I wrote it for Amnesty International’s campaign against torture when I could not find anything relevant to sing at a service for prisoners of conscience. Please join me in this prayer of my heart…
God of freedom, God of justice, You whose love is strong as death, You who saw the dark of prison, You who knew the price of faith Touch our world of sad oppression With Your Spirit's healing breath
Rid the earth of torture's terror, You whose hands were nailed to wood; Hear the cries of pain and protest, You who shed the tears and blood Move in us the power of pity Restless for the common good
Make in us a captive conscience Quick to hear, to act, to plead; Make us truly sisters, brothers Of whatever race or creed, Teach us to be fully human, Open to each other's needs
We all live daily with this sharp dissonance between ways in which we are blessed and ways in which others suffer. Just sometimes, that dissonance reaches a crescendo when we seem so powerless to affect a different outcome, except to open our homes and our wallets and share of what we have unreasonably received. I am reminded to reach deeper into my capacity for gratitude, to invite the Lord to further enlarge my heart, to make me a captive of conscience and so be open to another’s needs, here amidst the hurting hearts in this lovely hospital.
May the Lord make clear to each of you in what ways He would have you reflect His compassionate heart.