One of John Stott’s Friends: A 90th Birthday Reflection
Dear friends of John Stott,
I have quite a mixture of emotions as I write this… Not too many days ago on April 27, we celebrated John Stott’s 90th Birthday! He made it! A few years ago, especially after his fall and broken hip in 2006, many of us felt sure he would not survive the rest of his 80s. But amazingly he has. I was able to visit Uncle John for his special day, a birthday tea having been arranged for him in the afternoon. Frances Whitehead was there, along with John’s nieces and a few other close friends. He arrived in a wheelchair smartly dressed in his best blue shirt and tie, and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. The warden of his retirement home made a nice speech, and they had a cake and candles. Uncle John even wielded a cutting knife for a slice or two. John was clearly pleased, though his voice is now very weak indeed. Frances and other friends had been with him in the morning to open and read a fraction of the hundreds of cards that have come!
I went over and knelt beside his wheelchair and spent some time in quiet conversation with my arm around him. He seemed glad of the familiar voice and hand. I gave him greetings from as many people as I could remember who have specially sent them.
But that was the other emotion in this mix. It is so hard to restrain the tears and lump in the throat just being beside John, hand to hand, head to head, remembering the incredible power and voice and presence he once was, and to see him now so weak – but still mentally clear and responding as best he can. Truly there is a sacred mystery about our lives, our vulnerability, the road from vigor and fullness of life and powers, to the fragile endings of such things. And yet, of course, as John himself has said – he looks forward to “a yet more glorious life beyond death” in the new creation for which we all long with the groaning of its birth pangs in this creation. That’s another reason for taking courage and comfort from the great Easter truth of the “sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.” And as I left again for the train back to London after bidding him goodbye, the dominant thought was once again, that the next time we meet might well be in the new creation itself.
It was a modest but happy little occasion, and a privilege to have been there to represent the great legion of people who have been so deeply influenced by John Stott around the world.
With prayers and warm greetings, and with thanks for your continued encouragement and prayers,
Christopher J.H. Wright
Langham Partnership International