As you grow older you learn that no one has it all together. Those who were once giants in a league of their own – far above yours – turn out to be humans in the same beleaguered state as you. Merely human. But mere decay and mere confusion, this mere humanity of ours – it has many layers. I find I am being disillusioned constantly, realising the incompleteness of those who I look up to goes deeper still, and their flaws compound upon flaws. Thankfully I am introspective to a terrible fault so I’ve compounded my own flaws with bonus interest; this disillusionment doesn’t lead to despair nor cynicism nor any brash independence founded upon some realisation of “oh what…? I think I’m actually better than them!” Rather (but only in light of the love of God) it leads to compassion and grace.
And it’s never a shock. I’m never shocked that someone is less amazing than I thought they were. I guess this is because I am humbled everyday (in light of the love of God) – and why would I pause aghast at another’s eyeball speck when the lumberjack’s motherlode in my own eye is so abhorrently apparent to me?
The one exception to this was when I visited my ailing grandfather at Westmead Hospital earlier this year. Strangely, as events would have it, I was aware of his bleak prognosis and he was not. He had not yet had the specific details of the terminal cancer that had crept into most all of his body relayed to him. I knew that there was not much time left for him, and he did not – or so I thought. But when I walked into his room I saw that he very well knew. I also saw – immediately – that he was somewhat at a loss. Sitting at his bedside poking at a sudoku puzzle, garbed in his famous maroon cardigan, he was not a rock. I had expected a rock, but he was not a rock. He was dying, and he knew it, and it had shaken him. And I was shocked.
I was faced with my grandfather’s humanity (mere decay and mere confusion). I almost curled into a flustered ball – which would’ve made for the least comforting and most awkward hospital visit of all time. Somehow there was some well navigated chit-chat about the cricket world cup entered into. How on earth do we chit-chat in the face of our mortality? But I guess that’s what we do with every platitudinous step we take – we are no less mortal yesterday, today nor tomorrow. There’s scarcely a task to be about that is urgent enough to make our limited time here seem useful in light of all the need out there (well actually, there is – and it comes up at the end of this piece).
Regardless, soon the chit-chat had worn out and I found myself encouraging this giant of the faith. Reminding him of all the Truth he was a child of – reminding him of all the principles that redefine the significance of life and death (only in light of the love of God). I prayed for him. I had one of my best friends at my side, and he too prayed for him. A twenty-four year old and a seventeen year old praying for a shaken eighty-four year old giant of the faith. There were too many questions for him to answer – what will the doctors say? What treatment options should I consider? Can I fight this? Is this really the beginning of the end? But, beautifully, the question that burned in him – who will look after my wife and will she be okay?
All of this left him shaken, and as it was the opportunity to play the role of rock opened up. I stepped in as best I knew how, and all I can hope is that Grandpa was blessed by that visit.
Weeks later, I visited him again on what was his deathbed. Now, all of those questions had been answered, and the rock was back. I don’t believe Grandpa was ever afraid of death – rather inconvenienced and stressed by it’s abrupt intrusion. That was the shaken Grandpa I had seen, but now the dust had settled. The man that lay before me was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a human doing what he was made for. Worship. Everything of this world had failed my Grandfather, and being the rock he was, he saw that not as a cause for despair but as an opportunity to get on with it. To get on with what he was made for. He saw it as an opportunity to enter into non-stop worship. He was worshipping God (in Whose love he’d lived his entire life in the light of) with almost completely undivided attention, no longer distracted by the desires of the flesh.
The Name of Jesus was constantly on his lips, and though many would argue he was not quite coherent I will forever maintain that he was the most lucid that I’ve ever seen anyone before. The most deliberate and the most inspired. He said to me over and over “Living Water flows out of Josiah! Living Water flows out of Jesus!” He said to me that the world desperately needs this Living Water and that we’ve been too timid. Why have we been so timid? He was beyond timidity. He was beyond any inhibition of the flesh. He was no longer held back from his worshipful purpose – except perhaps by the occasional cough and splutter, the occasional cry of pain. Dire circumstance and unbearable pain pitted against a hope that will never fade away. It has never been so clear to me that victory lies on the side of hope. Hope that is found in the Light of the love of God.
Grandpa has blessedly moved on to truly fulfil his purpose. He can worship absolutely unfettered for all eternity now. But for we who are still here – the world needs Living Water, and we have been far too timid. And though to die is gain, we must continue to live.
Because the world needs Living Water, and we have been far too timid.
– Josiah Hallett