Believe it or not, after a month I am still tracking down friends I worked with over the years to update them on my condition. Even though I have not seen or heard from some of these people for five years or more, I knew they would be interested.
Sometimes, the last e-mail addresses I had for them went were no longer valid. I have found LinkedIn to be a valuable source to find old friends. I used LinkedIn to locate a former colleague, friend, and boss I worked for circa 2010. He got back to me within 15 minutes. While he knew I had retired because of a heart issue, like most of my friends he did not know that my heart had entered the danger zone and would require a transplant. His first comment was about how much I had been through recently. He noted my positive attitude and then said something that appealed to my spiritual needs.
He said that his favorite Bible passage is 2nd Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” He likes this passage because those 8 words convey much power. He said it keeps him centered in a time where it is easy to get caught up in the noise of the world. I totally agree with him. The Bible quote is just 8 simple words, but it outlines a viewpoint that has a profound impact on our success or failure in life.
There have been many times in my journey with heart failure where I could not see clearly where I was going. There have been several times when the symptoms became worse, signaling that my heart failure was becoming severe. I could not see into the future to know if I would get through the heart storm, and I was anxious. The last time was in July and led to my admission to the hospital. I knew what I hoped the outcome would be, but I had no guarantee.
Now that I know the outcome is what I was hoping for, a heart transplant, I cannot see a date on the calendar when that procedure will occur. To add some level of complexity to the matter, Covid is all around us and I can’t afford to get sick with this virus or anything else for that matter. The bottom line is that I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Yet I have to keep on going because I know God has other tasks for me to complete in this life. I don’t have to see exactly what they are. I know that they are in line with Christ’s command to Peter: “Feed my sheep.” In other words, tend to the needs of my fellow men and women on earth. I just need to keep my faith engaged, because although I can’t see the resolution that is in store for me, I can sense definitely and strongly that God is with me. He has seen me through heart failure so far and has kept me going even in the most frightening moments. He will get me through this surgery so I can move on to my new purpose in life.
In fact, I believe that my journey with God has made me a better person in spirit and in my heart. Even though it is now a poorly functioning physical heart, I believe God challenged me to take on tasks that have helped others and this has enriched my spiritual heart in the process. He made me stop looking for guideposts along the way to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Instead I was looking at people and their faces to see if I had made a connection and looking for ways to help ease their anxiety. I was living my life not by what I saw but the spiritual connection and encouragement I perceived.
Faith is an amazing thing when you think about it. It doesn’t take much to do some pretty awesome things. You don’t believe me? Just look at the book of Matthew, Chapter 17, verses 47 to 20. In this passage, a man appealed to Jesus because his child has a demon. He had asked the disciples to remove the demon, but they were unsuccessful. Jesus scolds the disciples and then drives the demon from the child’s body. Later on, the disciples ask Jesus why they were unsuccessful. He replies:
I have to admit, the detail-oriented person in me wants more clarification. Does it matter what type of mustard seed? I mean, the ones that make Grey Poupon mustard, versus Dijon mustard, versus good old French’s mustard? Then I realized, it isn’t about the brand it’s about the belief. All that matters is it is a small particle of mustard seed that will grow into, and flavor, an abiding belief in God.
I don’t know if you have ever seen an actual mustard seed or if you are only familiar with the jars of mustard you see on store shelves. Trust me, mustard seeds are teeny tiny. I remember as a little girl a relative gave me a gift of a necklace. It was a small see-through globe and inside was a very small mustard seed. When I think back on how small that seed was, I am amazed.
Why am I amazed? Because Christ affirmed that If you have faith even that small, you can walk with God and be open to the wonderful places he will lead you. If you invest even that small amount of faith, you and God working in concert can accomplish miracles. Sadly, however, there are many who can’t even seem to find the smidgen of faith that they need to be open to God. Maybe it is because they felt that God has let them down in the past, but is that true?
Perhaps it was your own conduct that led to the letdown. I know from my own experience, I am the one who causes my disappointments. In all the instances I can think of, my failure stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have faith in myself and it showed. So, in the end it wasn’t God who did the disappointing, it was me. My faith was not strong enough, and that was the root cause of my failure and a slight to God. I say that because Genesis Chapter 1, verse 27 tells us that God made humankind in His own image. In my mind, this means that if I am made in God’s image, I need to have faith in myself just as much as I have faith in God. When I fail, then I am letting not just myself down but also God.
I think of all the times God has been there for me. I think of the times I have disappointed God and He always forgave me. I think of the times I stumbled, and He always picked me up and put me back on the right path. I think of the times that I just cried in despair as my heart got worse, and as a friend said, He was crying there with me to let me know I was not alone. After we had the good cry, He strengthened me so that I could face whatever challenge came next. He always points to the things in life that give me material for making jokes. I have faith that God’s sense of humor equals or tops mine.
I have to realize that having faith means discerning what it is that God has in mind for me. I am a strong-willed person, and sometimes I try to influence God into thinking that what I want to do is actually God’s will. Needless to say, that trying to manipulate God is a non-starter. I may think I have many talents and that I know where they can be best used. What I forget is God gave me those talents as a gift, and it is a gift that I have to use responsibly.
I also believe that having faith means being a good steward of all the assets God has provided. This would include things like making sure we do not abuse the environment and making sure we recognize and celebrate the diversity of our neighbors, and we help those in need.
But I also think this means that we need to take care of our own bodies and minds. We can see to our physical health by watching our diet and enjoying the bounty of the harvest that God has provide for us. We can breathe deeply in the air when we are out walking, and take on a calming, spiritual presence. We can thank God for the gift of wonderful medical care, and then follow the advice of the talented professionals He provided for us.
Sometimes our mental health is damaged by the stress of our jobs and of course the stress of living in the Covid era. It is hard not to be anxious, especially if you watch tv, read the newspaper, and/or engage in social media because they all provide 24/7 coverage of any or every crisis. Do what you can to get away – be it a puzzle, a book, a phone call with a friend, meditation yoga, or my favorite, praying. When necessary, seek counsel to help you regain your perspective. Do whatever it takes to regain your calm and your focus so that you can let God lead you when the road ahead is dark and ominous.
Faith is all you need to walk with confidence when the path is dim, or to witness miracles where before you only saw despair. Protect and nurture your faith like the treasure that it is.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.