Friday, May 1, 2009
How Alive are We?
I've been thinking about the heart, our hearts, lately. This past March I was sent to the ER because I had sent a screwy signal in on my heart monitor. I had just gotten out of the hospital in Jan. with a really bad pneumonia, came off of a ton of medications, and now had to deal with a heart issue. After the doctor told me to go to the ER and have an EKG done I was fed up, didn't want to go, and actually debated it for about an hour. I told Bill, "Don't come down here, I am sure they will do this test and send me straight home, because all the other signals had turned out to be nothing." He reluctantly agreed and I walked into the ER alone. Within 2 minutes of them doing an EKG I had defibulator pads on and nurses and doctors everywhere. I asked one, "Should I call my family?" and of course she said yes. Ugh, I felt stupid. The next thing I knew they had to completely stop my heart and restart it. What an experience to not only humble you but get your attention. The details of the why aren't really important, the health of my heart was. Everything turned out ok, but it left me a bit shook up. I took it for granted that things were fine, that this was just another one of the weird body things I deal with at times. How foolish of me. Then I really got to talking with God about the whole thing and a few things came to mind. The health of my heart is important, but not just physically, spiritually as well.
How many of us are walking around with sick hearts? Sick from too much stress, too little love, from our hearts being beat to death by society or a skewed world view, or just simply from the bad habits we take on every day. This heart sickness is a problem, and one we can't ignore anymore. So when I realized this, I spent a good bit of time thinking about what makes my own heart sick, and that was a revelation.
My earliest memory that I can grasp my fingers around was when I was five. My brother walked into the kitchen and asked for a bowl of water, which my mom gave him without question, and a few seconds later we smelled smoke. I remember running into her bedroom and seeing the entire wall on fire. The next thing I knew my neighbor was holding me out front, my mom I'm sure was trying her best to put the fire out, and I was freaked out because I couldn't find my cat. The fire was bad enough, but my cat was the bigger issue. I loved this cat, her name was Fluffy, and when I was five she was my entire world. All I could think about was whether or not my cat was burning in the house. Eventually my neighbor found her and my world, though still shook up, was better.
Although our house was saved, the experience was difficult, but not nearly as upsetting as what happened next. I came home one day from school to find that my mom had given Fluffy away, without telling me. We had to fly to the states and couldn't bring the cat. Simply put, my heart was broken. That brokenness affected me deeply and I carried it with me for a long time. My little five year old brain just couldn't comprehend how this could happen and I developed a deep sadness that stuck within me like a tiny piece of glass that the eye missed each time. The wound was made and began to slowly, over a long period of time, begin to grow. That wound would be the foundation for lots more wounds, and lots more broken hearts in my life, but I wouldn't know that until just this year.
You see, my heart is broken again and again because life simply isn't fair. When I grew up believing it was, life set me up to be deeply wounded. The point to what I had realized is that those wounds I suffered as a child never healed, until I was willing to go back there and bring God with me. Only then, would I be able to heal that little heart, which set my adult heart up for healing too, because the two are always connected. I have lived through horrific life experiences, some that are shocking to understand how I am even walking the planet, but I am, and walking quite peacefully. For the longest time I went through the motions of life, going through a divorce, surviving it, wrestling with my understanding of God, and then having to deal with a ton of medical issues. The opportunity for my heart to get sick from this was quite real, and it took me hitting rock bottom for God to show me my heart was not only sick, but sick all the way back to when I was five. So the time span for my heart needing healing was wide, and long overdue.
I spent quite a lot of time working with a therapist to come to terms with this "heart sickness" and thank God he was willing to nudge me safely into bringing God into those dark places. It didn't occur quickly, and there are still some issues I am working through, but my heart healing is in progress, and my life will never be the same. And as I realized this I began to see the pain and broken hearts in the lives of my friends and family and strangers, and my heart breaks for them, but in a different way. As I write this a family just learned that their child has been sexually abused by someone they trusted, a military family has just received the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting for our country, and somewhere, alone in the dark, a young mother is sitting contemplating ending her life because she feels like a complete failure and the drug culture she lives in has turned her world upside down. Their hearts are broken aren't they? I wonder how many people out there are suffering lifelong wounds in their hearts but not understanding that God is the only way their hearts will heal completely. I wonder how many of us are angry, or depressed, or unwilling to love, because their hearts were wounded many years ago and those wounds are still alive and silently growing.
How is it that we are called by God to help heal the hearts of others, when our own hearts feel raw and torn up themselves? It's a puzzling issue at times, but I truly believe that those of us who manage to survive a life of challenging heart wounds, and God heals us, is given a great duty to share the healing with others, to give hope to the hopeless in this place. One way I am figuring out how to do this is through my art. The painting of my angel has lead many people to explain to me how their hearts are broken, and how the angel has given them hope. I had not one thing to do with that outcome, but God did. He used a gift he gave me, that I chose to use, and in turn reached out and helped heal the wounded hearts of others. I am truly humbled by this. So to my artist friends out there I challenge you to ask God what you might need to paint next, and then share your story of why you painted it with others. You might be blown away too, by the outcome. And to my friends and family who are walking around with deep wounds from a life of damage, I encourage you to ask God to go back there with you, take him into that place, and let him begin to heal that part of your heart. For without a healthy heart, we are not free to live, or love, or truly experience the love of God as it was intended.