I say “reflections of a turtle” because these are a few thoughts that impressed me deeply while I was lying flat on my back for large periods of time during the past two weeks following back surgery. (And, unless something really motivates me, this is the last you will have to hear about that entire experience.)
The first morning after surgery I gained a profound appreciation for the simplicity of intimacy, when wife Sara Faye came to my bedside with a breakfast tray and proceeded to feed me, spoon by spoon, a wonderful bowl of warm oatmeal coated with brown sugar. I was too “stove up,” as they used to say back in North Alabama when I was a kid, to reciprocate the service, but did insist that she make herself a bowl also and take a bite of hers between each bite she fed me. That quiet, loving experience could easily be duplicated without the physical infirmity marking that occasion — and I quietly resolved to do just that for my bride since 1967 one of these upcoming Saturday mornings.
The simplicity of intimacy has spiritual application also, I was reminded, as I read about half of Richard J. Foster’s wonderful book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper Collins, 1992). Long-time friend Wayne McDaniel of Phoenix had recommended this book to me several years ago but I had not been still long enough to read it properly until I found myself on my back for several days. Foster, who is a “Friend” of the Quaker variety, draws from the best spiritual writers ancient and modern, as he calls us to draw near to the eternal Father who longs more than anything else to hold and to bless his dear children. Foster is known for his book Celebration of Disciplines and as founder/director of the spiritual renewal movement Renovare.
These “turtle” days also provided insight on my own place in time and history as I read much of the 1125-page historical fiction novel London, by Edward Rutherfurd. The author is noted for his gigantic works which focus on a place and trace half a dozen imaginary but typical families through a couple thousand years. I had earlier enjoyed Rutherfurd’s 1300 pages of Sarum (an old name for Salisbury, England and the area around Stonehenge), and had begun his 760-page Russka (the Russian name for “Russia”).
It is both gratifying and humbling to view the panoramic perspective these books provide. Gratifying, because they confirm that individuals make families, shape nations and determine history. Humbling, because they remind us that generations come and go, families rise and fall, and that is the way matters both are and ought to be. Death is as natural as life in our present world; immortality must wait for another world to come. Character is the highest achievement for which one might hope to be honored, and its inculcation in our children is the greatest legacy we might be privileged to leave.