The heart is embedded with so many emotions and beliefs. You fear, you love, you laugh, you cry, you experience joy and anger, you believe truth or lies – all with your heart. It carries so many things and as Scripture says, “for everything you do flows from it”. Sometimes words pierce straight through your heart. Words that echo “Unfortunately, complete correction is not possible in your case” and “you will need ongoing surgery”. You can always map certain emotions to moments in your life where you know everything changed – you changed.
I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot and a right-sided aortic arch. This means that the heart has four defects: pulmonary stenosis, ventricular septal defect, right ventricular hypertrophy and an overriding aorta. I cannot remember much of the first couple of years of my life. Hospital images are engraved in my memory. In winter I wasn’t even allowed to move from one room in the house to another. Just the change in temperature could cause me to get pneumonia. Medically spoken I don’t have a long life expectancy. God is not finished yet, and by a miracle, by God’s grace, I have already exceeded expectations. I have already had three open-heart surgeries. My aortic valve has been replaced with an aortic homograft. Unfortunately, there is the risk of reoperation due to structural valve degeneration. I had my first open-heart surgery when I was 3 years old, my second when I was 9 and my third when I was 18 years old. My school years were not easy. I have a love for sport and of course I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, and my options were very limited. However, I did compete, and I loved it. I was deeply wounded when I had to watch others play sport and had to sit on the side-line and watch. I suppose we all sit on the side-line of life one way or the other and watch others get what our hearts are yearning for, and deep inside we ache.
My first year of varsity wasn’t any easier. I started getting blackouts, became more dyspnoeic and was overwhelmed with fatigue. What I didn’t know was, that my heart was going out of rhythm and there were long pauses between heartbeats. My heart went into a first-degree atrioventricular block. The only way to treat this was to get a permanent pacemaker implanted. In a period of 9 months I had open-heart surgery and a pacemaker implanted. It was probably the most difficult time of my life. Only by God’s grace I managed to obtain an LLB degree and finished my postgraduate studies. (LLM-Estate Planning, MCom: SA and international Taxation and Postgraduate diploma in Financial Planning). Looking back, I have no idea how I survived this period of my life. I know God had been carrying me and gave me favour.
I have already had two pacemaker implants and am due for a third one. I am now 100% pace dependent.
I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. I am not going to say that things were or are easy and that I accepted the cards that have been handed to me. I have wrestled with God and I have asked so many questions – some which will remain unanswered. Maybe like Jacob, I will limp for the rest of my life. There are still days that I am wrestling with God, especially when the demands of corporate life are taking its toll on me, when fatigue overwhelms me, or when I sit on the side-line of life and watch what my heart is yearning for.
In my journey I have come to realize to always be true to my feelings and recognise them. Give it a name – call it by what it is. One thing I can testify is that God is the strength in my weakness. God has given me this unbelievable strength and grace and peace that I know can only come from Him. Throughout the wrestling and the fighting, I have emptied myself – I have revealed the most painful parts of my heart and have been opening the deepest wounds possible. Wounds that I never knew existed. As Christine Caine says, “the miracle is in the breaking”. He has given me so much compassion for other people’s needs and I probably wouldn’t have had this ability, if I didn’t go through the refiner’s fire. Sometimes we must roll up our sleeves and show the scars. Those scars are real and I do believe that healing is in those scars. A wound always leaves a scar and a scar reflects life and, in my view, healing. Healing does not come overnight and it is a process but the biggest step is to be open and honest about it, to touch those scars and to confront your own deepest fears and to replace them with God’s Word.
It is not a sign of weakness when you have your days when things are tough and you feel like giving up and it is not that you distrust God when fear comes knocking at your heart when you arrive at your next doctor’s appointment. It shows that we are alive and that we are dependent on God for everything.
I would not have made it without precious friends and family. We all need that sister who will wake up every 45 minutes for 24 hours after your heart surgery to give you water through a straw. We need that friend who checks in every day just to find out how you are doing. That friend who will urge you on to buy that mountain bike because you love cycling so much. We all need that friend who brings you flowers to celebrate another year. That friend who keeps us honest and real and true to ourselves. We all need that mom who sacrifices so much so you can have the best medical care. That friend that is always there and believes the best in you and who never let you fall. The friend who always makes time for a coffee. We all need to be that person. Because of these significant people in my life, I strive to be that friend, to be more intuitive to other people’s dreams, hopes, needs and wounds. No matter how small it may be, for them, it could be vast and life altering. We always tend to think that miracles must be big things. I have come to realise that miracles are in the things we take for granted. Miracles happen every day – we just don’t see it. There is a miracle and healing in having that coffee with someone.
Go and find that thing you love and do it and don’t take yourself too seriously all the time.
John 11:4 This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.