A Fresh Start With A New Heart

I remember that day vividly, nearly two and a half years ago. That morning, while getting ready for work, my sister-in-law Amy called to say that it looked like today would be the day. A day that our family had been anticipating for months. Her 18 year old son, our nephew Matthew, would undergo lengthy heart transplant surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. There was no way of knowing for sure if the surgery would actually take place that day, or if so at what time. Being that the hospital was only about an hour drive away, I got ready and left for work.

On the day of Matthew’s birth, we had gathered at a local hospital, excited about meeting the newest addition to our family. There was no reason to think that there would be any problems; we fully expected a healthy baby to be delivered. Within a short while after birth, we were told that Matthew was having trouble breathing and that a heart problem was detected. It would be necessary to transfer him to Children’s of Pittsburgh where determinations could be made of his condition and where he would receive more specialized care. 

Matthew at 1 month old with cousins Nick & Simon
(Matthew usually has a much more pleasant personality than shown in this picture!)

The devastating news came soon: Matthew had been born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The left side of his heart was underdeveloped. The diagnosis came with 3 options for my husband’s brother and his wife. 1 – they could choose to not intervene at all which would mean Matthew would not survive. 2 – they could choose to do a heart transplant. 3 – they could choose to have Matthew undergo a series of surgical procedures over several years which would allow his life to be extended, hopefully at least into his teens. The third option was recommended by doctors and chosen by Matthew’s parents.

There we were, 18 years later. Matthew certainly had his share of struggles by then, but had a happy and fulfilling life. Even though his heart was filled with love and joy, it had become too weak to support and sustain his life. There would not be much more time ahead for him without a heart transplant. While at work later that day, I got the word that Matthew was being prepped for surgery. The day we had hoped and prayed for was finally here. Matthew’s hospital room slowly filled with a few friends and close family. There was joking, nervous laughter, some hidden tears (both of joy and concern), prayers, hugs and see-you-after-the-surgery goodbyes. Matthew waved as he was wheeled down the hallway and the rest of us headed to the waiting room where we’d be together until late in the evening. Hours later and much to everyone’s relief, the phone call to Matthew’s parents came informing them that the surgery was a success. The new heart was beating strongly inside Matthew’s chest. 

Matthew with one of his biggest supporters – his brother Andrew (ages 10 & 5)

Ezekiel was a prophet to the Jewish people for at least twenty-two years and lived among the Jewish exiles in Babylon. A large portion of Ezekiel’s message to the Jews communicated judgment due to their continued rebellion against God [Ezekiel 1-32]. Despite their disobedience to Him, God offered them a wonderful gift with a message of hope through Ezekiel: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” [Ezekiel 36:26]. God’s desire was to restore Israel physically and spiritually. Physical restoration would occur with Israel returning to its own land as a nation. Spiritual restoration would occur through His Spirit as God transformed them and empowered them to do His will. He gave them a fresh start with a new heart.

Matthew was given a fresh start. God answered our prayers by means of a generous heart donor and a talented and dedicated medical team who provided him with physical restoration. Without the transplant, Matthew could very well not be with us today. A new heart was required to sustain his life. You and I may never be in need of a heart transplant, but the Bible makes it clear that we are all, even more importantly, in need of spiritual restoration. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. Like the rebellious Jews who received God’s message through Ezekiel and like the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s time who didn’t incline their ears to hear from God, our hearts are evil and stubborn and disobedient [Jeremiah 7:24]. Walking in our own counsel is not the remedy; only God can give a fresh start with a new heart. The requirement is to turn to Christ, to put our Hope and Trust in Him. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

HOPE NUGGET: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17].

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