Have you ever heard the quote, “I don’t mind problems but I hate surprises?” I didn’t coin that phrase, but I resemble it. Two weeks ago Janna and I received some unexpected news that was a real “punch in the gut.” Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? I have, and it’s frightening. It happened to me in high school during a football practice, and the panic of that moment is still a faint lingering memory. Once this happens you have just one goal and that is to catch your breath and regain your balance. Janna and I have spent these past two weeks doing just that, gaining perspective of our new reality.
It’s one thing to get the wind knocked out of you and quite another to just be winded. Recently I noticed that my breathing was a bit labored while doing moderate activity. Having just completed my third half marathon, I knew that I wasn’t in the best of physical condition, but something was not quite right. So, I made an appointment with my cardiologist, and an EKG determined that I was in arrhythmia, which is a fancy way of saying my heartbeat was “off” or irregular. After my heart attack on August 18th of last year I suffered from this same malady, and it took an electric shock to kick it back in rhythm. So, this procedure was once again scheduled since medication doesn’t tend to work for me when it comes to treating this heart malfunction. The good news is that I reported for the procedure and on its own the heart went back into a normal heartbeat. However, since this was a reoccurring episode the cardiologist ordered a heart monitoring device which I am to wear 24/7 for one month in order to observe my heart rhythms. What a pain in the blessed assurance.
My out-of-sync heartbeat is teaching me some things that I must pay attention to lest I set myself up for other kinds of medical issues. For example, I’ve learned that when my heart is out of rhythm I’m 5 times more susceptible to having a stroke. Since my heart is in distress it works harder, and this impacts my energy level, so I tire more easily. I’ve noticed some of the signs my heart is not functioning normally are heart flutters and an elevated heartbeat. For instance, when they took my pulse in the doctor’s office my heart was beating 131 beats a minute, and 60 to 100 beats per minute at rest is a normal rate. I’ve also learned that this kind of heart dysfunction is more common than I realized. Others have told me their story, which lets me know there are people suffering, often in silence. None of us are aware of what may be happening in the life of someone we rub shoulders with every day.
Have you noticed that life has a way of throwing off our rhythms? Just about the time everything seems to be cruising along, all at once, BAM, you hit a pothole, and everyday living gets out of alignment. If you’ve ever ridden in a car when the front end is out of alignment or where the timing is off, you know the ride is rough. In the good ole days we used to say the car was “missing,” which meant the spark plugs were not firing on all cylinders which caused the engine to spit and sputter. A bad doctor’s report, a job loss, divorce papers in the mail, a financial reversal, or the betrayal of a friendship can send our lives into an arrhythmia of a different kind. This is what happened to Janna and me. We were flying down the highway of life when out of nowhere our daily routines and rhythms were interrupted. I have some very close friends who are presently experiencing some emotional and spiritual sucker punches, and they find themselves gasping for air. Like a boxer who has been dazed by a “left hook,” I’m watching the ones I love stagger seeking to get their equilibrium back.
So, what am I to do when it’s apparent that the symptoms are pointing to a cardio misfire? The Bee Gee’s asked this question in a song, “How can you mend a broken heart?” Well, to be honest you cry as you seek to make sense of your new reality. It helps to talk to people and to learn from those who have walked or are walking in the “valley of the shadow” of this death- like experience. It’s this simple; when someone we love dies, part of us die with them. When we lose our job, part of our dreams walk out the door with us as we’re escorted from our office, leaving behind a flood of sweat and tears we expended each day as a faithful servant. Ask anyone who has “lived through a divorce” if they felt like the person they lived for and loved has died. Shared parenting, though, is a constant reminder that the pain is still very much alive.
How do you mend a broken heart and get your heart back into rhythm? Well, you call your cardiologist, and you call on Dr. Jesus who is the healer of the broken heart. This is what Janna and I did that Monday morning when our lives went into “shock,” and we were catching our emotional breath; we prayed. We told Dr. Jesus how badly we hurt and how our fear, along with the pain, was hard to take in. The Great Physician made a house call to 2260 Thurmont Road that dark day. Together we did what we did when I had my heart attack last August; we hugged, cried, and said, “We’re in this together.” We’ve been hit before and landed on our feet, and this too shall pass.
I felt compelled to be vulnerable with you and honestly share my story because I feel someone may be reading this whose heart is misfiring. Or perhaps you’re going through some other life-altering event that has knocked the wind out of you. I want to close with a prayer you may want to use as you walk through your dark valley.
Dear Heavenly Father, I’m calling home to share with you some bad news. I’ve been hit with some unexpected news that has knocked me to my knees, so this is why I’m praying on bended knees with a broken heart. You know me well, and You know I hate surprises that leave me frightened and vulnerable. I need Your comfort and assurance that although I have been caught off guard, You are fully aware of my situation, and You have everything under Your control. Although I don’t understand why things have happened, I choose to trust You in the middle of this storm. I refuse to complain and allow this to make me bitter, rather to make me a better person that You can use for Your glory. Please help me as I walk through this dark valley and give me strength to help others whose life is “out of sync.” I lift my hands in full surrender to Your will and declare my love and allegiance to You as my Savior and Lord. I praise You and give You thanks for Your tender love for me. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!