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.

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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

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 —

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

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

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.

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Heart Matters: The Best Medicine
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