My feet were moving at an appropriate speed for the short distance from the car to the church door, but nobody had consulted with that muscle deep within my chest.
I stopped short of the building, allowing the pounding in my ears to subside and the seemingly long-awaited return of oxygen to my brain. The physical price was nothing compared to the emotional toll when the church door opened. I shuffled in late, not surprising, as every small task required planning and patience now.
The song that rang out from the stage was declaring the singer’s heart for God. His heart, evidently, was being offered as something of great value—an odd concept since I was unable to sing along with him; I knew that my own heart was weak.
The phrase the doctors used was “in failure.” This bizarre mixture of Christianese and medical vocabularies was swirling in my chronically, oxygen-deprived gray matter.
So, I listened to the people singing about heartbeats, our hearts, broken hearts, grateful hearts and God’s heart, only for this to be followed by a wonderful, solid message about—you guessed it—our hearts!
Lest my worship leader or pastor read this and feel the slightest twinge of guilt, I have chosen the same songs and preached similar messages, never quite gripping the power of the metaphor. Scripture is filled with references to the heart and stubbornness, stoniness, brokenness, yearning and more.
I sat in church that morning and for an hour and a half, sodium gently leaking from my eyes. I am sure that those around me must have wondered what it was that I repented, but that repentance had happened a few weeks earlier while still in the hospital.
My tears flowed as I considered what it meant to lay my heart, and all that is attributed to a heart, at God’s feet. My physical strength – gone. My courage – gone. My ability to meet a task – gone. My mind, thinking, reason – all dependent upon freshly oxygenated blood being delivered once a second or so to my brain was gone.
Surrendering to God
What I knew in that service was that my heart had failed, but that God would not fail me. He might let my heart stop, He might allow a new and unexpected chapter to be written in my life, but though my heart might fail, God would not fail me.
That first visit back to church was months ago. My heart, then pumping out 30 to 35% of the oxygenated blood is now pumping 55% (a healthy heart pumps 50% to 65%, or so I am told).
Substantial weight has come off. Cardio exercise takes place three times per week and some light exercise takes place on the other days. Our family is experimenting with how to make a low sodium diet bearable (which will allow me a sequel blog post about the biblical usage of the word salt).
One day, my heart will stop, as it will for everyone. When it does, I will have already faced the prospect and God will then, as He does now, hold my heart in His hands.
Not a bad place for it to be.