“As I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.” (“Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin) How you live your life matters. The problem is that most people don’t ever really understand the impact of the lives they have lived until it is too late. It is only when you get the opportunity to stop and look back over the total spectrum of your life that you can truly understand who you have been and how that being has affected other people. Many movies have been made, many books have been written and many songs have been sung about this very reality. I consider myself blessed because I have had the opportunity, through this journey of the heart, to experience this reality first hand, with the bonus of the opportunity of a new life in order to make some course corrections.
I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that surround this subject. Through this process Michelle and I have been so blessed by the notes, cards, emails, Facebook comments, phone calls, financial support and other gestures of love that we have received. Names of people that we have never met along side names of people that we saw yesterday and people we haven’t seen since the 1980’s and beyond. The internet and social media deserve the amount of scrutiny and criticism that it receives, but as for me and my situation, it has truly been a gift from God. It has made something possible that wouldn’t have been possible fifteen years ago when I experienced my first bout of A-fib. Through this outpouring of love and support, God has taught us humility in face of struggle, in the face of triumph and in the face of life. If Michelle and I ever had a doubt about the impact of our lives on the people around us, this journey has wiped all of them away. God is using this journey to bring healing, not only to a sick heart, but also to our perspective of the others with which God has placed us.
I want to share two very important lessons that God has taught us. (This isn’t everything, this is just all I am able to share right now.) The first lesson that God has taught us is how to eat, enjoy and grow from a steady diet of humble pie. Through this process I have realized how many times I have dropped the ball in the past. How many times I got too busy to make that phone call or shoot that text or send that email or pay that visit. Not that I didn’t think about it or even care, but that something always “came up” that was more pressing and the next thing I knew a day, a week, a month has passed by and the moment was gone. No vindictiveness, no malice, just simply a hierarchy of busyness that was created in my reality that prevented me from doing the simple, life affirming, relationship building stuff that I could have easily “squeezed in”. So many people took the time (and used their talents and treasures) to do the simple, life affirming, relationship building stuff for us. Your example, your love, your caring didn’t go unnoticed. It was received, cherished and it has formed the basis of a life transformed through your love. Forever more, I will strive to never be “too busy” to make that connection and show this kind of support and love.
Second, God has used this journey of the heart to open up a new understanding of forgiveness. In order for me to make the statement that I just made, I need to practice forgiveness. I have to accept the forgiveness that God offers me for the mistakes of my past. For the times that I dropped the ball and didn’t express that simple, yet profound love for others that God has shown to me through Jesus. Also, the future forgiveness that I will need to seek when I do fall short of this mark. I realize that even with the best of intentions, I will drop this ball at some point. On the flip side I need to practice forgiveness for the people who have hurt me in the past. Some people who showed us love and support brought me to tears when I read their names because I never would have expected it. Names of people that, a couple months ago, I didn’t have on my radar and if I did I would have swore that they wouldn’t have cared at all about me. These names started popping up and I was forced to deal with the reality that I was holding onto bitterness and un-forgiveness in my heart and I had to let it go. Through this journey of the heart, I have been able to let go of anger, frustration and hurt, that, at least, I hadn’t acknowledged or at worst had denied for years. I had buried it so deep that it wasn’t even a part of my conscious life, but was their all the time, festering deep underground. I had no choice but to forgive those who have hurt me and I am left with the prayer that those who I have hurt will see their way to doing the very same thing for me.
I have said it for years, but I never understood it to the depths that I understand it now. I have preached on it, taught Bible Studies around the subject, used the words as a slogan for a ministry and only now am I truly beginning to mine the depths of its significance and impact on my life. It is you, all of you, that I have to thank for this epiphany. Not that I want to wish something as dramatic as heart failure on anyone, but you have to admit that it is quite ironic that God has used the failure of my physical heart in order to teach me how to overcome the failures of my relational heart. God has cemented that which my mother taught me many years ago – Relationship is the key!