This week, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my young niece. Six months ago, they found a very large hole in her heart that had been overlooked for sixteen years. My niece always seemed like a bright and bubbly, healthy girl – a competitive swimmer, in fact, for years. There were no outward signs that a one-inch hole had been residing in her heart since birth. That is until a routine physical exam turned up a slight anomaly which led to tests that revealed the hole. They inserted a metal plug into her heart through a catheter and she was off and swimming again in two weeks. Unfortunately, we later learned that my niece is allergic to the nickel in the metal plug they inserted which was causing some serious complications. So this week, surgeons cut through skin and muscle and cracked her sternum open to cut the metal plug out of her heart and sew a patch over the hole. Yesterday she came home from the hospital and is starting her long road to recovery. They tell us that she will need approximately six weeks before she can return to her normal active teenage life and that it will take up to six months of diligent exercise before the visible effects of cracking open her sternum are corrected. We’ve also been told that it will take two cosmetic surgeries to minimize the scar left from the operation which she will need to wait approximately two years to have.
It got me to thinking about the God-shaped hole that is in the heart of every person and how only God's Spirit can fill that hole. Oh, we try to fill it with other things – money, romantic love, or success. Some people try to fill it with their obsession for exercise, or drugs and alcohol, or sports. There are even those who try to fill it with some form of religion or new-age spirituality but none of these things can fill that hole. At first, they may seem to be the easier fix, but used as a substitute for God, these things can poison our lives – mind, body, and soul. In the end, we have to turn to God and ask him into our hearts and into our lives. It’s sound simple enough, but this is not an easy process. There are some things that God is going to have to cut through and break open as he reaches into our hearts. The healing process from a sinful life is rarely quick and easy, but when you consider the alternative – a hole in your heart or a deficient plug, who wouldn’t agree that it’s the only choice. Just as my niece has a long road of recovery looming ahead of her, the spiritual healing process in each of us takes time – a lifetime – to completely heal.
The thing to remember on this path of healing is that we are not alone. God is with us every step of the way. He is the Healer – the one who will lovingly scalpel through our character and excise the sin from our lives to give us life and give it abundantly. He is not some casual observer, but a living, active necessary part of who we will become. God is the one who sees all of the darkness in us and with great skill and precision, cuts it away until all that is left is his shining glory. Though it may seem like it in our dark hours, he will not leave the job undone. That is the hope he brings and reason enough for us to praise his name in good times and bad and in the moments in-between.
About the pictures: Phipps Conservatory (June 2009)