When I was nine years old, at a routine checkup the pediatrician detected a heart murmur. After a few tests a specialist told my parents I had an atrial-septal defect, essentially a hole in my heart. A few months later I had surgery at LeBonheur hospital in Memphis and went home with a Teflon patch on my heart and a “super-glued” incision on my chest.
I was home from the hospital in three days and swimming and riding my bike in two weeks. I was proud of my scar, but even prouder of my Teflon patch that made my heart nonstick.
Well, it didn’t take a decade for me to realize there’s no such thing as a nonstick heart. Oh, physically I’ve never had a heart problem since. But emotionally, well, that’s another story. There are so many things that stick to a heart: first kisses, last kisses, proposals, goodbyes, births, deaths . . . . And while I learned pretty quickly that there are plenty of things that embed themselves — yes, stick to — your heart, what I didn’t expect was that I would ever again have a hole in my heart. Then in April of 2017 my newlywed 30-year-old daughter died in a car accident. That part of me that contained her was broken open. I was left with a Rachel-shaped hole in my heart.
There’s no cure for grief, no surgery to repair a broken heart. Deep wounds hurt. They leave a scar – physical evidence that there was damage. I prayed – O! how I prayed. But, because I knew my daughter wasn’t coming back to this world, at first I didn’t know what else to pray for. My prayers early on were mostly wordless groans. Sobs and moans in the wee hours of the morning when grief woke me. But, as Paul wrote to the Romans (8:26), the Holy Spirit knows how to interpret our groanings and prays for us.
God heard my groanings. He bound up my wounds. Can I say He healed my broken heart? I can say He’s working on it. I still have a scar and a hole. My spirit often feels crushed, but I know He is near. He cares about my grief.
Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Am I proud of my scar? Well, that scar on my chest is almost 5 ½ decades old and I don’t really brag about it anymore! The Teflon patch is still there, though I rarely think about it. But, the holes and scars and life experiences that are all a part of my heart have been bound up by God’s love, mercy, grace, and healing. And that’s something to be proud of.
A prayer for the brokenhearted:
Father, you know how raw and painful my grief is. You know the one thing I want the most is the thing I cannot have in this world – my loved one back with me. I don’t know what else to pray for, Father, but I know I need You. Please hear my wordless cries. Please bind my wounds. Please revive my crushed spirit. Please bring me Your peace. Peace that is not of this world, but of our eternal home where You will wipe every tear from our eyes. Thank you, Father. In Your Son’s name, AMEN.
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