Dedicated to my Elkhart friends in the ministry of holding hearts: Velinda, Kendra, Sarah, Lloyd and Bev, Reuben, Brad, Justin and Laura, and all others who care about people.
I need to tell you sometime about how I slipped my gloved fingers around a beating heart and felt the power of each beat like an explosion against the palm of my hand.
What I can’t stop thinking about right now, is what happened after I touched the heart. Dr. Halloran asked me to hold the heart while he sewed the back of it. This is an easy little job on paper: you just put your hand on the heart and hold it in place while the surgeon sews.
When the time came, the heart was flooded with the electrolytes that halt the beating motion. Dr. Halloran put his own left hand on the heart.
“Hold it just like this, with your left hand… and your fingers here,” he said.
The heart, no longer pulsing with power, felt limp and sad, but I put my hand on it, trying to imitate what I had just seen. Dr. Halloran began to sew, with needles that are almost too small to see.
After a minute or two, I thought, perhaps this job isn’t as easy as I thought. Even though it wasn’t moving anymore, the heart had a life of it’s own. I felt like I was holding onto a bag of jelly that was gradually shifting its center and sliding down.
“I feel like I let it slip,” I finally said quietly.
“You did, but that’s okay,” Dr. Halloran said as he continued sewing.
I didn’t feel okay about it, and I was relieved when my assignment ended.
Later, after the surgery, he said I could come into surgery again sometime, and maybe the next time I wouldn’t “let the heart drop”. I could tell he was teasing, but I began chattering with alarm.
“Dr. Halloran,” I said in a panic, “did I mess it up?”
“I know how to tell you how to hold the heart,” he replied.
I think I waste a lot of time some days talking to God just like that, perhaps after I’m “handling someone’s heart” in the thick of some emotional or psychological battle.
“God,” I say at the end of the day in a panic, “did I mess it up?” Because, I often don’t know what I’m doing. What do I know about all the variations of dysfunction in our world? How can I be real about the dysfunction in my own life and still persevere in the hope that if God could have mercy enough on me to let me assist Him, there is hope for everyone? How can I cling unequivocally to the knowledge that God is bigger than any dysfunction, any disease, even big enough to transcend my own inadequacy?
So often I’m doing something I’ve never done before…facing something I didn’t even realize could exist in our world! …trying to hold someone’s heart, and I feel it slipping from my hand.
I then run to God in a panic of dismay and sadness and even despair sometimes, and he smiles at me for taking myself so seriously, and He keeps sewing, keeps creating the miracle that is His.
“I know how to tell you how to hold the heart,” He says, and incredibly, He invites me to help again.
God’s work in someone’s life, is His work, not mine. As long as I’m faithful to do what He asks, I’m not going to wreck it. Yes, he needs me to act, and the more experience I get the better and more efficient things may be. It is my privilege and delight to sometimes be a part of that miracle, just as other people were a part of the miracle in my heart.
But at the end of the day, I don’t have to carry the weight of the miracle.
God knows exactly what he’s doing, and the miracle is all His.