Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
I was chit-chatting with a friend from college about his latest work assignment, which took him to the Mississippi delta. He mentioned he had been by the birthplace of Kermit the Frog in Leland, Mississippi. Of course, I know Leland well since my mother grew up there. But sadly, I’ve not had a reason to visit Leland since my maternal grandfather passed in 2004. And while Deer Creek, which flows through Leland, is picturesque, I would have never thought it to be the place Jim Henson would choose to serve as the place of Kermit’s nativity. Yet, Jim Henson had been born in nearby Greenville, Mississippi, and spent his early childhood in Leland due to his father’s career as an agronomist for the Department of Agriculture.1
Can you believe it has been about 32 years since Henson left this life? Do you realize that there are potentially two generations familiar with Henson’s creations but are unaware of their creator? It boggles the mind of this “middle-aged” man. The older I become, the more I appreciate the Latin inscription on some clocks: Tempus fugit (i.e., “time flies”). But as I ponder the legacy of Jim Henson, the more I am struck by its tragedy. There was no reason that Henson had to die. The illness that took him was easily treatable had it been caught in time. There are certain complicating factors, to be sure. Henson’s parents reared him in the Christian Science faith.2 If you were unaware, Christian Scientists believe they should treat illness with prayer before medicine. In all fairness to Henson, he had stopped being an active practitioner of Christian Science in the 1970s,3 but one wonders if certain aspects of that upbringing did not stick with him. His friends say that he likewise did not like to think he was bothering others. So, complaining about his health or going to the doctor were things away from which he shied.
By the time Henson went to the ER, he had already been coughing up blood and had difficulty breathing. His inability to breathe landed him in the ICU and on a ventilator. X-rays showed lung abscesses, and the doctors gave him multiple antibiotics. The antibiotics were working, but Henson was still going into shock, his organs shutting down. Within twenty-four hours of his admittance to the hospital, Henson died from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome caused by Streptococcus pyogenes. The doctor announcing Henson’s death suggested that the medicine would have saved Henson had he come in a few hours earlier.4 Nevertheless, it was a shocking reminder to Americans about the lethality of pneumonia.
It is easy to armchair quarterback Henson’s decision since we possess hindsight. But when would you have gone to see the doctor? Would you have gone the moment you felt something was “off?” Maybe you would go after having a sore throat for several days? Most people would not have waited until they were coughing up blood. Relatively speaking, disorders of the body are easier to spot. Spiritual sickness, not so much. The presence of such is not to suggest there are no symptoms. There is a lie told here or skipping an assembly of the church there. But things become cumulative and indicate spiritual sickness. Paul said of the Corinthians that their transgressions invalidated their observance of the Lord’s Supper and revealed them spiritually weak, sick, and even asleep (dead?—1 Corinthians 11.30). Elsewhere, the Hebrews writer had to caution Christians of the ease with which they can drift away (Hebrews 2.1). And the problem with spiritual sickness is that a calloused heart doesn’t realize it is imperiled (Hebrews 3.12-19).
Our time to seek the Lord is limited. Thus, God cautioned His covenant people of old to seek Him while He was available for them to find (Isaiah 55.6-7). And Jesus invites us to enter the New Covenant today (Matthew 11.28-30). We have no more time promised than did they. James reminds us that our physical life is like rapidly dispersed water vapor (James 4.14), and the Hebrews writer says judgment follows death (Hebrews 9.27). So, when should you go to the doctor? I’d suggest that time is the moment you realize you are sick. But when should you go to the Great Physician? “Behold, now is the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation ’” (2 Corinthians 6.2 NASB1995). Don’t lose your soul because of something you could have prevented!
1 Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia.“Jim Henson”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 May. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jim-Henson.
2 Schindehette, Susan. “Legacy of a Gentle Genius.” People, 18 June 1990. https://muppetcentral.com/articles/tributes/henson/hensonarticle5.shtml
3 Evans, W. R. “Henson Rumor Is Groundless.” Toledo Blade, 1 July 1990, p. E4. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7ElPAAAAIBAJ&pg=4502,372385
4 Schreuder , Cindy. “Pneumonia Quickly Spread in Henson.” Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, 27 July 2021, www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1990-05-18-9005180413-story.html.