There are lots of random events that can bring you face to face with the fragile status of your own mortality and compel you to ponder the fleeting and uncertain nature of life. A near-miss brush with death on the highway might do that for some. For others, it could be a moment of foolish weakness, like somebody blurting out what they really think their mother-in-law looks like in that hat. Still others are sobered by things like getting distracted in a polling booth and almost voting for a democrat—and then, of course, there’s the discovery of a heavily clogged artery in your heart.
The most recent alarm for me is the last one. Many of you know that I was inducted into a new ‘club’ since our last post, and though being too personal can be risky, I thought I’d share a few comments about it. My new club is comprised of folks who have had serious heart procedures, involving either stent or bypass surgery. I got my new stent installed last Tuesday, and am now a member in good standing.
One of the risks of commenting on a personal event like this is the danger of sounding like one of those people who drives everyone around them nuts by endlessly elaborating on some experience that resulted in a spiritual epiphany of some kind for them. Afterward, everything connected with it becomes an all-inclusive metaphor for life, and/or assumes some kind of spiritual symbolism worthy of a whole new field of doctrinal studies. I harbor no such delusions regarding my heart problem or the procedures associated with it. My case is not unique from a medical perspective. The problem I had and the procedures involved in treating it are pretty common, and it is that very commonality that compels me to mention a couple of things that are worth considering from both a physical and spiritual perspective.
David prayed a fascinating prayer. He said,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV).
When it comes to problems with the human heart, this simple passage unveils God’s classic procedure of choice, both physically and spiritually. The word translated ‘search’ carries the idea of penetrating, and then exploring and investigating, which is precisely what happens in the physical realm. The doctors couldn’t determine the precise location or extent of the problems in my heart without going inside and having a look around. The fact that medical science enables us to do that astounds me, as does the fact that we are finally learning to do physically what God has been doing spiritually since the beginning. The similarities between the two realms of application is inescapable, and striking.
Looking inside our heart requires some help. No matter how independent and self-sufficient we might like to think we are, we cannot deal with major heart issues on our own. Someone distinct from us has to look inside, to ‘penetrate’ the heart itself. Otherwise it’s only guesswork. If I had showed up at the hospital and asked to borrow their cardiac catheter equipment so I could have a look inside my heart to see what’s going on, I might have gotten a look at their psych unit, but that’s about all. The diagnosis and treatment in both the physical and spiritual realms must come from a source with much deeper understanding and perception than we have. When it comes to heart issues, pride and arrogance either medically or spiritually are a prelude to tragedy.
Another thing about heart procedures is that they aren’t free—in spite of the claims made by proponents of Obamacare. There’s a cost involved in doing repair work for either spiritual or physical hearts, and the price tag is not just financial. Sacrifices will have to be made if healing is to be achieved. And don’t expect the procedures involved in either area to be convenient, or necessarily painless – and there’s a temptation lurking in that. Avoiding the cost and inconvenience is easily accomplished by simply putting the whole thing off, but those delays can be both foolish and deadly. The most common cause of tragedies related to heart issues spiritually, and probably in the medical world as well, is our tendency to ignore the symptoms and delay dealing with them.
I came away from the procedure with lots of new protocols to follow, medications to take daily, and appointments for subsequent check-ups. My life needed to change in some ways. That’s not surprising, is it? All of us want health to be automatic. We want all those vital systems to just keep going on with minimal attention, or in some cases, none at all. The truth is that the only thing on an automatic setting is deterioration. Maintaining health on either a physical or spiritual plane will never be automatic this side of heaven.
My physical heart issue has made me more aware of my heart in the spiritual realm, as well, and this simple truth about both hit me like a ton of bricks. When my heart wasn’t getting what it needed, all kinds of other systems were affected, as well. Stamina was pathetic, energy levels were way down, breathing was more labored, and fatigue arrived much sooner than it should have, and my overall outlook was more negative. Every other system we have operates in absolute dependence on the heart–and when the heart doesn’t get what it needs, everything else suffers. Think about that spiritually.
Finally, none of the potentially life-saving procedures performed on me last week would have been done without my informed consent. That’s true of God’s procedures, as well. He’s not going to invade my heart and do His transforming, regenerative, energizing work in my heart spiritually without my consent, either. The neat thing about God’s ‘cath lab’ is that it’s always open—with no prior appointment necessary.
© 2016 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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