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Heart Matters: The Best Medicine


The Best Medicine

On the day my son was born, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect that included a hole between the two lower chambers of his heart. There was plenty of other medical jargon terrifying to hear on my son's first day in this world. Doctors decided that when he was 7 months old, he'd have to have open-heart surgery.

Already in a bitter relationship with God, I felt infuriated by what I thought was God's bad sense of humor.

On the day of the operation, the prison-like waiting room quickly overwhelmed me. I headed for the door, looking for any escape. What I found was the hospital chapel entrance, just next to the waiting room door. Opportunity knocked, and I stepped into the hospital chapel with the sole intention of picking a fight with the Almighty himself.

The chapel was empty. To this day I believe it was by design. I took a good look around and took my time doing it. I wanted God to feel the depth of my anger. My heart pounded with anxiety and rage. I had visions of overturned pews and sacred symbols of Christianity strewn about.

Then something happened to me that hadn't occurred since I was a kid. My blistering rage crumbled; I began to weep. And I offered God a plea bargain: my life in exchange for my son's.

When I looked up, there in the big stained-glass window above the altar was Jesus on the cross -- the classic John 3:16 moment. Feeling foolish, like the kid in class who doesn't recognize that the answer's already on the board after the teacher asks a question, a sense of peace overtook me. I couldn't help but -- laugh.

My son came out of surgery just fine. Despite this blessing, though, over the next few years I continued to wrestle with God. I wasn't sure what he wanted from me. During those years my wife and I grew disconnected, and I became married to my job. We had two more boys. But I'd checked out as a husband and father; we were struggling financially.

Then one day when my son was 5, he asked the question I'd been waiting for ever since the day he came out of surgery. It was a warm afternoon, and we'd stepped out to play. My son asked if he could take off his shirt, and as he moved from one activity to another -- riding his bike, kicking a ball, throwing rocks -- he'd occasionally stop and run his fingers up and down the scar in the middle of his chest. At last he walked over and asked me what it was.

Over the years I'd practiced what I'd tell him about that scar, not wanting to create the sense that he had a crutch to lean on because of his condition. I knelt down and looked into his big blue eyes. Then I explained what had happened and said that his scar was a gift from God. I told him God had sent him to show people they could do anything despite their problems.

My son looked straight at me and said, "Maybe God sent me to show you." I couldn't help but cry as I held my son. Two things came into my mind. First, how was it that my 5-year-old son was smarter than I was? And second, I needed to truly hear what God was telling me.

It wasn't until that moment that I completely surrendered. After years of struggling spiritually, my son's simple words helped me save my life and my family. God has a profound and sometimes odd way of showing us things -- but I have to admit, his sense of humor isn't as bad as I once thought.

Donovan Gibson is a freelance writer. He lives in Jamestown, North Dakota.


What's on Your Heart?

Send your 500-word story to "Heart Matters," Children's Ministry Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481.

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