I remember how terrified I felt when my dad had a heart attack in October of 2011. I remember the fear, uncertainty, anger, sadness, and all the other emotions I felt which rooted themselves deep inside the pit of my stomach and made eating, sleeping, and sometimes even breathing, just a little bit more difficult. I became hyper vigilant about what I ate, what my father ate, and when and how we both exercised. I began micromanaging my life AND his! I was grasping (flailing is probably more accurate) for some sense of control and some type of understanding of the situation.
I find that I still hold my breath every time I know he has an appointment with his cardiologist or every time he doesn’t feel that great physically. I want to make it better. I want to fix it. Mostly, I want to understand it all.
Although what happened to my dad was one of the scariest things that has happened in my life thus far, I want to argue that we are all constantly having our hearts attacked – in some form or another. Maybe weight, food, and health are not your struggle. Maybe you can sprint a marathon at the drop of a hat, have no issues living off of salads or maintaining a healthy weight, maybe your heart – the one that beats steadily inside your chest, is the strongest muscle in your entire body. If that is your truth – congratulations! Health and peace is quite the accomplishment. However, be on guard – your heart is still being attacked.
One thing I have to constantly remind myself of is the fact that God loves us as we are – but He loves us far too much to leave us as we are right now. There is so much more for us out there – in this life AND, undoubtedly, in the next. The most inconspicuous and mundane tasks are often building big things in our lives – things we can’t yet see…things that matter, things of value, things that will change our world and the world of those around us.
I am scared – scratch that – I am petrified of change. Even the word itself makes me feel woozy and a bit nauseous. When we feel fear we almost always give in to it – sometimes it causes us to do things we regret and are ashamed of, but more often than not, it KEEPS us from doing the things we need to do in this life – the things we have been called to do. Fear is what happens when Satan sees us moving forward, taking steps in the right direction, sharing Jesus, fulfilling God’s call on our lives. Fear is Satan’s #1 tool to prevent us from achieving growth and to steal hope, joy, and peace from our lives. Fear causes us to have heart attacks. Fear keeps us stuck.
Fear feels absolutely awful. But what’s hard to grasp is that having God enter into our hearts – the house of our souls – and having him tear down walls, throw up new paint colors, get all new furniture, switch lighting, and turn the whole thing upside down actually hurts WORSE than fear does – but unlike fear, it’s exactly what we need to embrace and exactly the thing that should cause us to act.
Jennie Allen said, “Some of us have decorated our prison walls so beautifully that we have altogether forgotten we are sitting in a cell, wasting our lives.” When I read that quote from her book, “Relentless” (which you should DEFINITELY read: (link here)) my heart broke a little bit. It moved me to the point of tears. We are so afraid of feeling fear that we shirk away from the plans God has designed for us and instead pursue what we’ve convinced ourselves are our our dreams and goals. Or what’s worse, we actively choose to disregard God’s pull and calling for us and knowingly pursue our own goals and dreams instead. But God doesn’t sign off on our dreams and if we wait for him to sign off we will just be living a life that is deeply unfulfilled and drowning in fear and doubt.
There’s no shame in any of this. We ALL are constantly dealing with and warding off heart attacks. But what if there was a different answer? What if, instead of living in fear of when we’ll encounter our next heart attack we surrender and allow God to completely change our hearts? What is holding us back from a complete heart transplant? I constantly ask myself this question – I don’t believe that a heart transplant is necessarily something that happens once and then we are “good” for the rest of our lives, not in the spiritual sense, at least. Rather, it’s something that I have to constantly remind myself of and something that I continually struggle with remembering. It’s frustrating because I know that tightening my grip and clinging to fear will only strangle the things I’m ultimately hoping for (which is that the will of God be done with and through me and my life), but I find myself so paralyzed with fear of the pain that a full transplant/transformation will potentially produce that I allow the fear Satan places in my heart to ultimately control my thoughts and actions.
One of the toughest things is not allowing the fear of the unknown to stunt your growth – in any area of your life, but ESPECIALLY when it comes to pursuing God’s calling. It is so easy to convince ourselves that where we are and what we’re doing right now is “good enough” and that we are “fulfilled enough” but I urge you – if you feel God’s tender pull on one area of your life, lean into that urge and see where it leads you. As humans, we have limited vision – we can only see so far into the future. For control freaks like me, that’s a very scary thing – I don’t like not knowing what will happen even an hour from now!! God can see not just the bigger picture – but God CREATED the picture. We are the canvas and He is the artist – we can only see the brush strokes he uses as he uses them one at a time, but God can see the entire canvas – He can see how our lives are developing and He already knows what the ending result of His glorious painting will be.
I want to challenge you – I want to challenge US – to make a conscious effort to notice when we are having our hearts attacked and instead of allowing that fear, shame, anxiety, and whatever other negative feeling may accompany it all, to control us – let’s lean into God’s ever encompassing arms. Let’s ask Him to show us how we can achieve a full heart transplant, how we can honor Him, how we can follow where He is leading us, How we can surrender and allow Him to paint the big picture, and How we can grow in trusting and loving Him through this entire process.
It isn’t easy. And it isn’t instantaneous. It’s a frustrating, long, heart breaking process – but the end result is redemption, a renewed heart, a renewed spirit, a sense of unshakeable peace and joy, and a knowledge of the unending love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let’s give up fear, anxiety, worry, and all the things that cause us to have heart attacks time and time again. Let’s lean into the pain of allowing God to transform our hearts and our lives – knowing that the end result will be far better than a life riddled with constant fear and repeated heart attacks from the enemy.
“Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good, pleasing, and perfect.”
-Romans 12:2 (NLT)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord you God who goes before you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
To my sweet, sweet father: I can’t imagine doing life without you. You are my hero, my best friend, my rock. Thanks for teaching me how a woman should be loved and cherished by the way you love mom. Thanks for teaching me forgiveness, grace, unconditional love, and humility. And thanks for all the sacrifices that you and mom make for me each and every day – there aren’t enough “thank you’s” in the world to give to you both. Love you both, always and forever! ❤
“Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter. In love to our wives there is desire; to our sons, ambition; but to our daughters there is something which there are no words to express.”
“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke