Have you noticed the big role the heart plays in so many facets of our culture? We have sayings and idioms like, “You’ve got to have heart.” “Let’s get to the heart of the matter.” “We were stirred by your heartfelt message.” “We need to have a heart-to-heart talk.” “Officials are focusing on the heart of the city.” “The great response was heartening.” “Affairs of the heart.”
Most of these aren’t referring directly to the incredible human machine that starts pumping life-giving blood throughout our bodies months before we’re born and continues until to the moment we die.
But they still underscore a basic truth: We can’t do without our hearts.
Fifteen years ago today, I experienced this in the most profound way possible. I underwent open-heart surgery, not only to repair some arterial blockages but even more important, to have my entire ascending aorta replaced. Without this corrective operation, I not only could have suffered a heart attack, but with an enlarged aorta I was in imminent danger of an aortic dissection. If not properly diagnosed immediately when a rupture like this occurs, it’s usually fatal, as it was in 2003 for comedian John Ritter.
During the six-hour operation, I was put on a heart-lung machine to keep blood coursing through my body while they stopped my heart to perform the replacement and repairs. My new parts consisted in part of homograft material (human tissue) and synthetic material (in my case, Dacron).
Thankfully, after Dr. Morrison and his team had completed their work, my heart started back up, resuming its continual task of beating 70 times per minute on average, 4,200 times per hour, and about 100,000 times over a 24-hour period. Amazingly, it does this day after day after day, more than 36 million times in a single year. That means over my lifetime, my heart has already pumped more than two billion times!
As wonderful as that is, I’m convinced there’s more to the human heart than the distribution of blood to various parts of the body. Somehow, I believe, there’s a spiritual component to the heart, even though scientists might disagree, arguing there’s no such empirical evidence.
Over the years following my surgery that I served as a cardiac volunteer at the same hospital, I visited with patients who had undergone similar surgeries to offer encouragement and recommendations for their recovery process. It was common to talk with strong, macho-looking men who would tear up, thinking about what had just happened with their hearts.
Reading the Scriptures, we might rightfully conclude that God also views the heart as more than an important organ in human physiology. The passage I embrace as my “life verse” admonishes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Note we’re exhorted to trust in God not only with our minds, but also with our hearts.
Proverbs 28:14 states it another way: “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” Like King David, we’re to cultivate “a heart after God.”
The heart, according to the Bible, also is the seat of our motivations. Proverbs 17:3 declares, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart,” and Proverbs 21:2 adds, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.”
Yet another verse from the same book, Proverbs 4:23, offers this warning: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” We might paraphrase this to say, “Be careful about where we place our deepest affections, because those will impact the entirety of our lives.”
We could cite many other biblical examples, but perhaps the most significant of all can be found in Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
As someone has said, genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ is a transaction that involves the heart (or emotions), the mind and the will. All three are necessary when we entrust our lives to Him as Savior and Lord. A decision made solely from the heart may waver when emotions of the moment have waned, so we must also align our minds with what our hearts are telling us.
At that point, by an act of the will, our eternal, life-changing decision can be sealed. Then we can truly, from the heart, fulfill what Jesus Christ instructed when asked to identify the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30-31).
So, while I’m rejoicing over a repaired heart that has served me unfailingly over the past decade and a half, I’m thankful also to God who promised, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.