Letters From a Hospital Bed #39: 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.
August 11, 2022
I have been mulling over our muddled relationship with the notion of ‘impassible’. I suspect, (as does your faithful scribe!) that most of us do not spend much time pondering this word, but then at this stage, a lot of intriguing notions wander by in my days. As an adjective, if we use it, we think about blocked roads and missing bridges. When we think of it as a quality of a person, we tend to think of them as intransigent or perhaps obstreperous. Rarely would we consider it an attractive quality that we might rise into the day, leap to our feet, and declare with all the vigour appropriate to the new morning, “today, I will be impassible! Strangely, that is actually the problem. We should. Allow me to explain.
In these past weeks, we have been exploring the healing of our emotions, and soon we shall turn our attention to the role of Christ as Great Physician as our Healer. For many of us, and I include myself, our wounded emotions are never healed because we keep them secure in a locked room that is designed to be perhaps our most impenetrable inner sanctum. Often, we do not even visit ourselves and have thrown away the key so many years ago that we cannot even find the door anymore. We have rendered whole parts of ourselves ‘impassible’, an inner ‘no-go zone’, usually guarded by a very powerful force that is generally fear based. Yet, for the early Fathers, to be ‘impassible’ was to have matured to a high ground, to have achieved humility and even conquered pride. This does not sound like our notion of being ‘impassible’ at all. How could an attribute that keeps us locked away from others and even from ourselves, be an evidence of maturity? On the face of it, this seems absurd!
Impassibility was the original health of Adam and Eve, like that of God’s angels, as likewise His ministering spirts. Only ‘in Christ’ can impassibility be made possible, to permit no false passion to affect the soul. Like a mirror that reflects clearly the presence of the one looking at it, so ‘Christian’ impassibility can never distort nor remove. We human beings are all created "in the image and likeness of God.” Before I go to sleep at night, I recite to myself the assuring words of the Psalmist: ”As a child on its mother’s breast, so are my thoughts before Thee!” Then I pray that in my dreams I might not have evil thoughts, but only have dreams where I sense there is the presence of God. So it often happens for me. For Christians, we can positively respond when we are asked, “did you sleep well?”; “I slept like a baby, for Christ was present with me all night, with no nightmares, just glorious peace!”. Then the following day, we can live with purity of mind; purity of thoughts that radiate love, joy and peace.
For many of you who knew my high-spirited Rita, you would know that I quite enjoyed teasing her. It just worked to make the day more interesting! I would ask her to respond to the adage: “Two men looked through prison bars. The one saw mud, the other stars. Which ’sight’ did she want to have? And her predictable response…of course, I want to see mud, because the other was hit on the back of the head and saw stars!” But with the aid of divine aseity – God’s unique capacity to be only of Himself - we can all "sleep like a baby”. For as we grow to embody the knowledge of God, and begin to respond to His eternal love, that divine ‘aseity' also begins to grow. All that we need is ‘contained within’ for we have taken Christ into our beings and by His Spirit, He dwells in us. As the Early Fathers experienced so clearly, living a given aseity then gives us freedom from this world, to live 'heavenly-minded', in the true sense. It is the realm where Christ dwells and rules, and within this world we need nothing else. Our “impassibility’ becomes not a protection of an unresolved hurt, but a protection against the broken world that lies outside and can only harm what is otherwise already healed. Becoming healed from false emotions is a zigzag climb, until we attain impassibility. This then makes it possible to love and be loved, no longer distracted and impeded by our lack of emotional health. So in the beautiful words of Kate B. Wilkinson( 1859-1928), we sing and pray:
May the mind of Christ my Saviour, live in me from day to day, by His love and power controlling all I do and say. May the Word of God dwell richly, in my heart from hour to hour, so that all may see I triumph, only through His power May the peace of God , my Father, rule my life in everything, that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing. May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea, - Him exalting, self-abasing, this is victory. May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus, as I onward go”. In friendship Jim