Archive for March 5, 2009
One of my earliest memories of family tragedy came on a beautiful fall afternoon when my mother received a phone call: “Come quickly!” the voice on the other end of the line said. “It’s terrible! I need your help right away!” Unfortunately, this mystery voice on the other end of the line failed to identify herself. And without caller ID (this was, after all, the 80’s), the tone of this mystery voice was so frantic, that my mother failed to recognize it as her own mother’s. So, you can imagine my mother’s shock and guilt when, a couple of minutes later, this voice called back and said, “Didn’t you get my message? Hurry up and get over here! Your father’s had a heart attack!”
I didn’t really know what a heart attack was before that day, but that evening, as the family sat around my grandfather’s hospital bed, I learned more than I ever wanted to about the medical mechanics of a trauma that kills over half a million Americans each year. Heart attacks are most often the result, I learned, of coronary artery disease. Inside your arteries, fatty plaque can build up which eventually ruptures, causing a blood clot which mostly, or even completely, blocks the flow of blood to your heart. When this happens, a heart attack ensues. The primary cause of a heart attack, then, is a narrow, or even blocked, passageway to your heart.
In today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 6, we read how the same thing that can happen physically with a heart attack can also happen relationally in our dealings with others. Paul writes to his Corinthian congregants: “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us” (verses 11-12). The Greek word for “withholding” in these verses is stenochoreo and literally refers to a road that is narrow, or even blocked. In other words, the Corinthians are on their way to relational heart attack of sorts. For they are blocking the way of those who would seek to minister to the Corinthians’ hearts.
Have you ever acted like the Corinthians? Do you ever engage in habits with your heart that can place you on the path to a relational or spiritual heart attack? Do you lie about your sinfulness? Do you consistently and comprehensively refuse the help of others during your darkest hours of need? Do you close yourself off to God in anger or disgust because of some trouble you are facing? If so, remember that you can only restrict your heart for so long. Eventually, a heart attack will come.
Mercifully, my grandfather did not die that day over two decades ago. He came through fine. However, some are not so fortunate, whether it be physically, relationally, or spiritually, when they live with narrow hearts. So what is the remedy to such narrow heartedness? Paul gives us the answer in the next verse: “Open wide your hearts” (verse 13). Engage in honesty about your sin. Accept help from others. Turn to God in your times of despair. Open wide your hearts. After all, Christ has opened his heart to you. As Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17-18: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Christ has a heart that is wide and long and high and deep for you. Now we, as his followers, are to mirror that heart. We, as his followers, are to reflect his heart. And so I pray that you will live with a wide and long and high and deep heart toward Christ…and toward others. Today…and every day.