Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Bionic Heart

Wow. Life gets busy. I swear that I'm trying to make this blog a priority, but it seems that life just keeps getting in the way. This time it was pretty serious, though. A lot of you who read this blog are probably already aware that I have a pretty major event looming over my head. Well, it now has a date. April 14th. The day that I get cracked open like a dungeness crab.

For those of you who are wondering what the heck I am talking about, don't worry, I haven't been captured by cannibals and I'm not harboring an alien in my chest. I was, however, born with a defect in the aortic valve in my heart. Your heart valves have three 'flaps', my aortic valve only has two. It opens and closes sort of like a fish's mouth. In the process, it leaks a lot of blood and causes a pretty major heart murmur. Although I am in excellent shape and am suffering absolutely no ill effects from my condition (yet), the left ventricle in my heart is having to work harder to pump out that excess blood, causing it to grow bigger. Right now it is right 'on the edge' of how big the doctors want it to get. If it grows any more, my heart could become sick.

So, on April 14th, I will undergo open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. I am part of a really cool FDA trial where they will be putting in a new carbon-fiber valve to replace my defective one. My surgeon is one of my very close friends (he was my buddy before I even knew that I had a heart problem) and he and his partners are the most experienced docs in the world at installing this new technology. Word on the street is that the carbon-fiber valve will increase my horsepower by about 200 and drop my time in the quarter-mile by almost a whole second. I'm hoping for a 0-60 time that rivals a Ferrari 430, although I'd settle for the Audi S6 time.

All humor aside, I am about to have about the most invasive surgery imaginable and I honestly can't help but be a little freaked out. For those of you who are still wondering...yes they do have to saw open my ribcage, take out my heart and replace the valve. Unfortunately, there is no way to 'scope' this one. Looks like I'll be out of the water for a bit. Sure, I'm a little nervous. But more than anything, I'm actually excited. Those of you who know me know the truly miraculous circumstances that brought my doctor, Dennis Nichols and myself together as friends. God's hand was undeniably present in forming our friendship and His healing for my heart started years ago when we met. In my case, my doctor's hands are literally God's hands. Because of this, I know that I will be just fine. Sure, I worry about the pain and the recovery and the loss of almost a year's wages (I am a commercial pilot and because of FAA regulations, I will be out of work for a LONG time). But I know that God is in control and will help me through all of that stuff as well. I am excited to see just what God is going to do in myself and Camille's lives in this next year.

My brother, Chad also writes a blog. His latest post forced me to think about some real truths in life and in the process once again validated the faith that I have in God, even when things are hard and God seems distant. He mentioned that he is more in love with his family and with God than ever before, but that he is also going through the hardest time of his life right now. Many who don't believe in God would point to this as evidence that God is not there or that He cannot be trusted. However, having walked closely with God for most of my life, I know that the opposite is true.

First off, God never promised us that this life would be easy. It is a very bumpy road at best, but He has promised that He will be there for us through every rut and washout. He won't necessarily flatten the road for us, but he will always help us navigate through the rough parts, if we ask Him to. Second, it truly is in the hard times when we have to rely on His strength that we learn our best lessons, grow closer to Him, and become better human beings in general. Let me illustrate.

Several years ago, I went through the hardest time of my life. To make a long story short, I lost my baby daughter, my former wife dove deeper into depression and alcoholism and my marriage eventually ended in divorce. At the end, I was literally crushed. I had lost everything. Even my house. I had a beat-up pickup truck, a computer and a couple of surfboards...that's about it. Sure, I had prayed and prayed for God to heal my marriage and 'fix' my situation. But God had other plans. Although I sort of knew all along on the inside that I was about to lose it all, I also felt God's presence and knew that He was going to be there to walk me through it. And walk with me He did! I remember being right in the middle of the 'hard stuff' and waking up in the morning and being happy. Truly happy. For no reason whatsoever. Sometimes I wanted to laugh, even though there was no reason to. I was just happy and content.

Not long after that, as I continued to soak up the healing that only His presence can bring, I was introduced to the woman of my dreams, my beautiful wife Camille. Within a couple if years, God had brought me from the pit of despair to the top of the world. There are so many more details in this story that I don't have time to share right here that would blow your mind, but for now just know that I truly believe that God allowed me to walk through an unimaginably tragic and hard situation for some very specific reasons. One reason was so that I could experience His presence in a way that I never would have had I not needed to lean on Him so much. One big reason, I believe, was so that he could bring Camille and I together. He also spared my wonderful daughter, Hannah a lifetime's worth of hurt. But there's one more reason why I know that we can continue to trust God even when our world seems to be falling apart.

I believe that something happens in the 'unseen' spiritual realm when we let God bring victory in our lives through hard situations. God saw the 'big picture' in my circumstance and He knew that I would be happier in the end if He answered my prayers in a way that was a bit different than the way I wanted Him to at the time. He also, I believe, knew that I would trust Him and because of that He allowed me to experience the kind of hardship that I did so that I could have victory over that particular situation...victory that could be used later on in life.

Let me explain. Today I am at total peace with my life, happier than I have ever been and totally in love with my best friend and partner, Camille. I experienced His healing and His victory over my broken heart. I have a friend, however, who is right in the middle of what I experienced several years ago. The details of his situation are a bit different than mine, of course, but the broken heart and the loss and hurt are exactly the same. Like I did, he is also trying to hold his marriage together with a partner who is unwilling to keep trying. Because of what I experienced, I am truly able to tell him that I know how he feels...and I am valid. I also believe that because I let God have victory in my situation, my prayers for my friend's situation carry a power that they would not have before. Even the enemy of our souls knows that he was defeated in my life when it comes to broken marriage and heartbreak. The weapons that I bring to this fight are infinitely more powerful than the weapons I would have had available to me had I not allowed God to triumph over my former situation. I can pray with confidence for others in this area and know that my prayers pack a real punch!

My friend Travis has a similar story. His mother-in-law died of cancer. Throughout the process, Travis refused to 'give in' to the cancer and chose to believe that it was God's will to heal her - even until the day of her death. While it was indescribably painful for him to watch as God chose to take her to be with Him, today Travis is seeing the results of his faith and his prayers against cancer. He prays with a lot of cancer patients. And they almost always get healed. No kidding. Travis' faith and refusal to let cancer 'win' in his life has given him a special victory over cancer in the unseen realm. Travis prays, God listens. And heals. All because God let him walk through a huge rut in his road caused by cancer.

Can I still trust God even though I am facing another really hard situation? I think that it is pretty obvious that I can. Sure, I am praying and trusting that God will just fix my faulty valve before the surgery even happens. But whatever the outcome, I know from experience that this will be one more arena in life where Jeremy's prayers will pack an extra punch. Who knows? Maybe someday I will pray for someones heart and it will be healed on the spot...not due to my faith or holiness (Just ask Camille how 'holy' I am!), but due to what God has allowed me to go through and defeat.

Life is hard. Faith in God is not a 'fix-all' that will keep life from being hard. Faith in God is the glue that holds life together when it gets hard. I can tell you from experience that life is infinitely better after walking through the 'hard stuff' and being able to look back and see how God was there for you all along. It brings a vitality and a power to life that can't be obtained any other way. If you're hurting, keep trusting Him. If you haven't made that leap of faith to trust Him, I promise you that it is worth it. The argument that a good God shouldn't let bad things happen is a cop-out. It is that good God who helps us make sense of a sinful, screwed-up world. A sinful world that is our fault, not His. Because He is good and trustworthy, He helps us through hardships that are a result of our fallen state and then gives us a power to live life to its fullest afterward. Trust me, you can trust Him.

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    Good stuff. I am sitting hsere bird dogging positions for Jeff who is on the hunt for jobs again. This one has ended. So we are throwing darts at maps and were glad to read your post.
    A good message for us as we get yet another chance to trust Him : )

    It is sometimes a whisper and a small nudge to me(all of us) from God. Not now. It seems God is really on the move. I find this in people's personal life and in public life the world over. Things aren't very subtle right now. I hope many people notice that it's God doing all that moving.