Letters From a Hospital Bed #31: 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.
June 16, 2022
As I have been reflecting with expectancy upon what new vibrancy might emerge from this global pandemic, I return again and again to a sense that it is in our emotions that a renaissance of sorts will likely unfold. We have tested the boundaries of our capacity for rational thought and while industrial prowess remains remarkable, the unravelling we are all experiencing as human beings, seems beyond our mere cognitive capacities. Our spirits have been literally pounded by isolation, by anxiety for loved ones, by institutional instability, by a dizzying array of emergent dis-order, all weighing on a deep angst that our ancient faith is somehow outdated and irrelevant. In the whipsawing of emotions that inevitably follows this kind of global crisis – one moment the hope of recovery, another the imminence of further collapse – we find our emotional muscles getting a workout that has them on fire. Yet, here, in this place of emotional dislocation, we are invited, indeed, we need, to sing a new song. The landscape that shapes our emotional ‘dustbowl’ might not change, but we can choose to view that same landscape quite differently.
When the prayer book was in its original compilation, it was not without good reason that a foundational building block of morning prayer was what we now know as the “Venite”, based largely on Psalm 95. For the psalmist, a lot has happened since he expressed his ‘new song’ in Psalm 33, for we have entered the depth of his sin with Bathsheba, reflected in Psalm 51, and most recently lived through the ‘deadly pestilence’ of Psalm 91. Here, with Psalm 95 we have begun a long ascent that culminates in the doxology psalms at the end of the psalter. So, in the order of morning prayer, we are led through the confession and into this healing of our emotional wounds out of which we ‘sing for joy’! Out of David’s deep self-inflicted wounding and depression, broken and in profound despair over his own emotional bankruptcy, he invites us to ‘come before (the Lord) with thanksgiving’. This is the gritty stuff of emotional healing and renewal. This is where many of us are today. This is our moment to choose. Please join with me…
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Psalm 96, continues this theme with…
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
Most of the time, especially now, we do not so much feel like we want to sing a new song as need to. As so much of what we have all known as western Christianity trembles before the relentless onslaught of secularism, we need to choose to live as expectant peoples. The Lord gave us the psalter not that our minds would be enriched so much as so that our emotions might be healed; so that we could pray not only the simple words of our Lord’s prayer, but also cry the anguish of the psalmist. My children have said of me that I do not so much live in the past loss of my own story as in the future discovery of God’s story. That is certainly my preference and the emotional habit that helps, is to choose, this day, now, in the midst of whatever discourages, to sing a new song.
My prayer for each of you, my friends, is that you find such a song for today and that you grow expectant that you will again find one for tomorrow.