Sunday, February 20, 2011

#8.1 The Keeper of my Heart: My Sickness and His Healing

(This is the continuation of #8 that I promised.)
     Blog #8 referred to Jesus' quote, "It is not those who are healthy (of strength) who need a physician, but those who are sick." Matthew 9:12. 
     For most of my young adult life, I didn't think anything was wrong with me. I was physically healthy and mentally sound --I thought. However, I came to a point where God did break through my pride to show me otherwise, and He did it through my heart. 
     I remember a time when I thought I was "healthy" and "of strength" when I was finishing up my first year of residency training. I didn't believe I was among those who needed a physician, as Jesus mentions in Matthew 9:12 and Luke 5:31. In fact, I actually was beginning to feel competent in my role as a physician during the long nights of in-hospital call and my ability to handle crises as they occurred. 
     On one particular night when I was on call at the hospital, we had a vicious storm blow through Dallas, taking out huge trees and power lines and leaving our hospital without electricity or phones, except for the pay phones. I sloshed through the inky blackness of a tree littered campus in ankle deep water trying to get to the various units in different buildings and reassure the patients huddled in the dark halls that everything would be okay--that they were safe, and we were still "in control." I was even commended later for my efforts in handling the emergency and tending to the needs of the staff and patients.
     But, just as I was beginning to bask in the glow of that confidence, I became ill with my first episode of pericarditis, and I learned how little control I actually had.

"Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." I Corinthians 10:11

     I was knocked on my rear. The more I tried to get better, the worse I became. I was following doctor's orders and taking my prescribed medicine and getting worse! I  slept only about two hours at a time, had constant chest pain and fatigue, and wasn't even able to walk down the driveway to my mailbox. It was one of those times I was crying out to God, "I don't understand!" Actually, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.
     Two seminal events happened to help me start getting better. First, my mother came to help me, noticed what a dither I was in, and asked why I was so upset. When I explained to her the possible prognosis of pericarditis, she went on to ask me what I was really afraid of. My answers were as follows:
"What if I don't get over it and am debilitated?" 
Her answer: "Well, do you trust God that He can handle that?" I said that I did.
Then, I countered, "But what if I can't get back to work and finish my residency?" 
She replied, "Do you think God can handle that too?" 
Again, I said, "Yes." 
Then she asked, "What are you really worried about?" 
When I confessed that I might die and leave the kids with no mother, she quietly responded, "And, is God able to take care of you in that event?"
Again, "yes."
"Is He able to see after your children?"
"Yes. I guess He is."
"Well, then I don't see what you have to worry about." She had taken all the wind out of my storm of anxiety, and peace followed.
     The second event was the visit of a friend and fellow physician who had been out of town on a spiritual retreat. She had stayed at a monastery during her time away. Oddly, she had experienced a dream or vision of God performing surgery on her heart, opening the pericardium (the sack around the heart), and removing the infection and disease He found there. Then, He told her to go share her dream with me when she returned home.
     Mind you, she was not aware that I was ill when she had the dream because she had been out of town. And, yes, this may sound like a very strange story. But, it happened. I was embarrassed to let her see me in my condition. My "public face" was not what she would see. Instead, she would find a perspiring, flushed, round-faced woman who had gained thirty-five pounds on steroid therapy since last seen at work. That's not how I wanted the world to see me. My friend drove out to Terrell from Dallas, brought a meal for my family, and related the dream. 
     She was the conduit God chose to use to get through to me. He was trying to tell me that my heart infection was more than a physical illness; it was a spiritual condition. He sent that message to me through my friend. She didn't offer the explanation to me. It was clear through the conviction of the Holy Spirit within me.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." Psalm 51:17 (NASB)     I was neither healthy nor whole. I still had parts of my heart that no one was allowed to enter, not even my God. I thought I was "of strength"--sufficient in my own will and determination to handle some things and trusting God with others. I had a divided loyalty --partly to God and the rest to my own reasoning. He wanted access to all of me, both to heal my physically sick heart and to clean out the bitterness left over from wounds, disappointments, broken relationships, and unfulfilled longings. He didn't just want to repair it; He wanted to give me a heart transplant!
"And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God."  Ezekiel 11:19-20
     I didn't fully trust my Heavenly Father because I was never able to trust my earthly one. Because I was accustomed to being disappointed by my alcoholic dad, I expected to be let down by God as well. He wanted to prove me wrong and to show Himself trustworthy and strong.
     Here is the song I wrote in response to that epiphany:

    Purify My Heart
   Lord, won't You purify my heart, Lord, purify my heart?
   Won't you burn away the part that isn't holy?
   Cleanse away the part of me that keeps the world from seeing Thee,
   And then take Your place upon Your throne.  
   Make my heart each day to be Your home. (fine)

   Make my mind to know the truth.
   Help my eyes to see.
   Urge my mouth to speak it out,
   And prove my life to be
   Yours, Lord. Only Yours, Lord.
   Won't You cleanse my heart and make it wholly Yours?
   Yours Lord. I am Yours, Lord.
   Won't You cleanse my heart and make it holy? Yours.
(d.c. al fine)

     I was blessed to have such a mother, fortunate to have such a friend. And, how glorious to have such a GOD! He took this heart of stone broken into many pieces and formed it into something He could use -- a vessel fit for His Spirit, pliable in His hands.
"Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, dial with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:3-6
     I started getting better and was finally able to return to work. During my time off, God taught me through His Word about how He is able to purify us. He uses the metaphors of refining silver by burning away the dross and sifting the grain to get rid of the chaff. Peter had just such a sifting.
     But God was also preparing me to face tougher times. On the day after the first night I was able to stay at the hospital to take call again, I returned home to discover that my husband had made a decision to leave. Separation and divorce were soon to follow, and tragedy on the heals of that.
     Yet, God proved Himself trustworthy and faithful. He is the Keeper of my heart.  "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."Psalm 73:26

     Here is "You're the Keeper of My Heart"


No comments: