A year ago, after a lengthy, invasive procedure, doctors fixed my heart. Guarding my heart has taken on a whole new meaning for me. Here are a few lessons I am learning from a recent cardiac procedure.
It’s easy to take your heart for granted. I mean, it beats, and you don’t think about it. You’re not supposed to think about that critical organ working. It just beats, right? But, recently, I couldn’t help but think about my heart beating, mainly because the beats were irregular.
During an annual physical, a couple of years ago, my primary doctor detected an irregular heartbeat. Concerned, but not overly worried, she recommended that I see a cardiologist for further observation. I went to see the cardiologist the same day. He did an EKG, but I was back in sinus rhythm (the standard or default rhythm of the heart). You know, it’s like hearing a knocking noise in your engine, but when you take your car to the mechanic, it becomes a phantom noise.
Anxious Thoughts About My Heart
My cardiologist recommended that we monitor it for the next several months. Over the next year, I went in and out of sinus rhythm more often than I cared to. It affected me physically and emotionally. I would lie awake in bed and listen to a nightly concert in my chest. It sounded like awful scenes from Drumline. Many nights, this experience haunted me. I was afraid of having a heart attack or stroke in my sleep and not waking up. Ironically, staying awake, worrying about my heart, actually was unhealthy for my heart.
Three Treatment Options
I needed to do something about this annoyance. Thus, my cardiologist suggested three options. First, I could take meds for the rest of my life, but the meds might or might not keep me in rhythm. Second, they could do something called cardioversion. This procedure shocks the heart into rhythm. Again, this didn’t guarantee that I would remain in rhythm. The last option and the most invasive, but also the most effective, was cardiac ablation. Therefore, after prayer and consultation with Tonia and the doctors, I opted for the third option. It has been a year since the procedure. Here are a few lessons I have and am learning.
Lessons I am Learning
God gives us tests every day. These tests are designed to shape us and conform us to the image of Jesus. As I have processed this last year, here are a few lessons God is teaching me, and I hope I am learning.
Prioritize my health
Today, I am more conscious about prioritizing my health. I get one body. God cares about my body and has invited and commanded me to glorify him by being a good manager of it (1 Corinthians 6:13, 20). For me, this means eating sensibly and exercising regularly. I have cut a lot of process sugars from my diet, and I have committed to an eating rhythm called intermittent fasting. Each day, I begin eating between 12 and 1 in the afternoon and stop eating between 8 and 9 in the evening. These are sensible meals (I cheat now and then). With this eating rhythm, coupled with regular exercise, I have shredded about twenty-five pounds and four inches from my waist. I recently went for my annual physical, and my heart is healthy and all of my numbers – cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, etc. – are very good.
The procedure is teaching me to rest – really rest. You see, for most of my ministry life, I have done a poor job living out the purposes of rest – to renew my strength and to know peace. I didn’t know how to take a vacation. For the last several years, to my chagrin, I had amassed many hours beyond my regular vacation time. More than that, when I did vacation, I checked and answered emails, took calls, and worst of all, worried about the things I could not control. Now, when I take a vacation, I do not check my email – work or personal, answer or make work calls, and I try to do things I genuinely love. Thus, all the things that don’t get done, I am learning to trust that God will make up what I don’t finish up. This practice has been a game changer for me.
Be present, now.
I am learning to be fully present, now. If you are anything like me, you fight with and against distractions every day. These distractions keep us from appreciating the NOW of life. Life is too important to let the past and future rent space in our heads and stifle our presence in the present. I will not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough problems of its own (Matthew 6:33-34). I get one physical life, and I want to enjoy all God gives me. I want to turn my minutes into moments. So, I am paying more attention and enjoying my family, friends, and colleagues. I am admiring sunrises and sunsets, change of seasons, and even learning to almost enjoy winter. I am walking slower, observing more and laughing a lot louder.
So, there are a lot of other lessons I am learning – drawing closer to God and letting the Holy Spirit produce joy, understanding my mortality, appreciating community and team, and so much more. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know Who holds tomorrow. Therefore, I have decided to place my life in the hands of our sovereign and loving Father.
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