In the spring of 2005, while going about my chores, I became aware of a heavy pressure in my chest, as though I was pinned to the earth by a giant boulder; I could hardly breathe. Anyone reading is quickly aware that I did in fact have a heart attack. Albeit a minor one, tell someone in the middle of a minor heart attack that it’s “minor,” and see how they respond. I, like so many other men at 50 years old, thought the pain would subside and I would go on with my day. Not quite. With every rhythmic beat of my heart the pain seemed to grow in intensity, until I had to sit down. My brain finally kicked in and I asked myself, “could this be a heart attack?”
Naturally, being a man, my first instinct was to investigate, so I went to the “googles” and typed “Heart Attack Symptoms,” and began to read the checklist. By the time I got halfway through the list, the pain was growing, so I went to my teenage daughters bedroom and said, “I think I need to go to the hospital.” She was just learning to drive, and only had her learner’s permit, and said, “I can’t drive you to the hospital!” Of course I simply responded with, “that’s ok, I”ll drive, let’s go.” Did it ever occur to me to dial 911, not so much, duh. So, I drove to the hospital.
Upon arriving at the ER, a woman at reception asked how she could help, I simply said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” To which she responded, “Sit down now! We’ll come get you.” Moments later I was on a bed, strapped with wire to a couple different machines, someone shoved a nitroglycerin pill under my tongue, and off we went to discover what was going on inside my chest. Here’s where the “minor” part comes in. While the cardiologist, the attending physician, and all the nurses and aids believed I was having a problem, nothing was registering on the machines to indicate I was in immediate danger. That said, they weren’t quite ready to send me home.
It took almost 15 hours for the blood work to come back with the enzyme evidence indicating that I did in fact have a heart attack. The next morning through an angiogram the cardiologist discovered blockages in the lower arteries feeding my heart, and put in two stints. As it turns out, I had a genetic cholesterol issue, which is now completely controlled with medications. It was just a minor heart attack, meaning no damage, and I’m still healthy as the proverbial horse. The result of the whole episode however, changed the rhythmic beat of my life. I had to slow down. This my friends was not easy for me to do.
Over the next couple of days my cognitive functions seemed to work overtime processing exactly what had happened to me. I came face-to-face with the reality or my mortality, and pondered the inevitability of death. During those sometimes dark hours, I also re-examined my foundational beliefs. One narrative from Mark’s gospel came back to me time after time, bringing me peace. As the story goes, Jesus had been teaching about the “the sower and the soils,” and “the mustard seed,” in Mark 4, concluding the day by telling the disciples they were all going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee by boat.
That night a storm arose, so fierce, these seasoned, trained fishermen believed with all their hearts they were about to die. All the while, Jesus was sound asleep in the stern of the boat. The dialogue of life is pretty telling here. The men woke Jesus and asked, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Rather than answer them, Jesus stands up in the boat and says to the wind and the sea, “Hush, be still.” The narrative teaches us that even the wind and the sea obey His commands. Then Jesus says, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” [Mark 4:35-41]
When the rhythmic cadence of your life is upended, when you think you may be dying, when the emotional pain or physical exhaustion almost wins the battle for your existence, listen for the voice of Jesus telling them all, “Hush! Be still!” The Creator of the Universe is in Sovereign control of all things, events, or circumstances of your life. Yield to His presence, and do not be afraid. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has promised it to be true.