A Fatal Flaw
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah17:9)
Let me tell you a story:
It’s a cool, cloudy spring afternoon. Rain drizzles outside as the grey light seeps in through window blinds. The fluorescent flicker of the exam room heightens the nervous tension in the room, as a young couple – perhaps in their early thirties – wait anxiously in the corner. At long last, the medical technician breaks the silence, “It’s another boy.”
No, this isn’t a story about Planned Parenthood; nor is this a story about abortion. This is a story about my life.
The excited and anxious young couple are my parents. And at 3:00 pm, on April 6, 1990, they welcomed their second son (me) into the world. Unfortunately, instead of being able to enjoy the moment, their excitement and joy would soon give way to heartache and fear. Something is gravely wrong with their son: his heart has a fatal flaw.
With no time to waste, doctors whisk the young couple’s newborn infant away. More doctors come and go, while shouts and orders echo through the hallway. In the midst of the chaos, the couple is all but forgotten. Finally, a kind, grave-faced doctor enters the room, shuts the door behind him, and sits down across from the young couple. The solemnity of his expression seems to communicate everything long before he even has a chance to speak. Nevertheless, he takes them by the hand and delivers the frightening news:
“Mr. and Mrs. Romine, your son has a very serious heart condition. The major arteries of his heart have developed in the wrong place.”
All sense of time and space seem to warp around the young couple as panic rises in their chests – they can’t think. Pushing through the mental haze, and with tears welling up in their eyes, they manage to ask, “What are you saying? What does that even mean?”
“If we do not act now, your son will surely die . . .”
The Day Their Hearts Stopped Beating
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)
Truth be told, our diagnosis is not so different. All of us were born with a fatal heart condition. Our sick hearts are pitifully and wretchedly bent to “exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve the created, rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:25)
We weren’t supposed to have sick hearts. We were made for something greater: to be eternal beings that magnify and delight in an infinite, all-satisfying God. That day in the garden changed our fate forever. That day we chose to “become like God” and magnify and delight in ourselves. That day we waged cosmic treason against our Creator. That day we chose death.
By declaring war against our Creator – whose breath is our very life and sustenance – we opened Pandora’s box. Since that day, we’ve been exploring every filthy, cavernous recess we can imagine. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, [and] slander.” (Matt. 15:19) All around us we see the tragic consequences of our natural state: families and lives are broken; we are slaves to an endless list of addictions; children are routinely neglected and abused; we lie, cheat, and steal; our hate has produced an astounding, piling body count.
Sadly, even in the face of incredible brokenness, we still often choose to suppress the truth because we cherish our sin. It’s that simple. It feels so good … at least for a while. Much like the ancient Israelites, we choose broken cisterns and dirty mud puddles over a fountain of fresh, living water.
We are pitiful, wretched creatures indeed.
A New Heart
“And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)
In case you couldn’t tell, I didn’t die that day. Gifted surgeons spent hours in the operating room, with my chest splayed open, grafting and cutting and correcting the fatal flaws of my tiny, quarter-sized heart. I still had a long road of recovery ahead of me, but I had new life breathed into my dying body.
Like my own heart, our only hope is radical, invasive surgery; without a new heart, our prognosis is certain death.
However, in His wisdom, God knew that we were both unwilling and unable to initiate peace. He knows that our hearts are mutinous to the core, and no amount of “doing better” or “right living” can ever fix them – or, for that matter, atone for our crimes. Therefore, out the richness of his love, and in spite of our treason, God took compassion on his enemies. For His glory and our joy He purchased peace with the shedding of His own blood, and thus gave us ‘hearts of flesh.’
On account of the heavy cost of securing for us hearts that are now at peace with God, we must not cheapen the gift by allowing our faith to devolve into shallow, passionless obedience which ultimately has no power to help us to live pleasing lives for God. God rightly demands and desires so much more from us. He desires that we fulfill the greatest commandment: “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all of your mind.” (Luke 10:27)
We must not be guilty of being superficial about God. Superficial love – affections without obedience – does not glorify God, for “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Likewise, superficial obedience – obedience without affection – does not glorify God, for even demons believe and obey Him.
Instead, let us seek to savor, to magnify, to exult, and to delight in everything God is. Let us cultivate deep, rich affection towards God that naturally results in our glad obedience to Him.
C.S. Lewis aptly said, concerning our desires, that, “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The Christian life, then, is not marked by a single heart transplant (which is undeniably necessary). Instead, it is marked by our humble and persistent confession that even though we are now a people set apart for God, our mutinous hearts are still quick to usurp the throne. To that end, let us entreat God to deepen our desires for him and to give us the only thing that will cure us: new, undivided hearts.
Thank God that there is no shortage of new hearts in God’s kingdom.