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A New Heart

A New Heart


By Katie Westenberg

The voice on the other end of the phone was small and humble, the words came out fragile, almost holy. “They found a heart.” For my dad, a new heart. No more transplant waiting list, no more hospitalized and struggling to remain hopeful, no more bedridden with a balloon pump holding his artery open so life could squeeze through. A new heart.

I called my husband first, but I could barely get the words out. Tears flooded language, but the words themselves - words we prayed for and cried for and so hoped to hear - were hard to speak.

A new heart. Someone else’s heart. A young heart linked to a soul ushered into eternity, likely long before it was expected, was now waiting to be sewn into my daddy.

That’s wild. The science and spiritual, the hurt and the healing, colliding. It’s truly mind-boggling to a girl who spends most of her minutes in the mundane. I make meals and train children. I wash dishes and help scrub hearts - most desperately my own. It’s good and faithful work, I know. It’s work I can process and persevere in. But a new heart? I could barely make sense of that.

I became enamored and asked lots of question. I asked hows and whys of the medical staff. I asked the surgeon and the anesthesiologist, the nurse practitioner and anyone else I felt bold enough to gently interrupt. How will this impact my dad’s pulse and heartbeat? How does this new heart connect with his brain? What can you tell me about cellular memory?

They patiently provided answers. One drew diagrams on the white board for me. Another asked if I was going into the medical field. That’s when I knew I was probably becoming annoying. But I was so in awe of it all, and grasping to understand, to make sense of it.

It’s a strange thing to wait and long for something, to cry and pray for something and then feel completely inept to handle its deliverance.

A new heart.

It was a wonder my mind could barely contain. No more scars or damage or defects. No more weak pumping or unacceptable pressures. No more strain on all the other organs of my dad’s healthy body because this was a heart that is strong, a heart that would work. A new heart.

For days after the miracle surgery my mind spun, trying to stream but constantly buffering as I attempted to make sense of this unbelievable gift. And then, in an instant, clarity. In a place I had never been, I was on a path I already knew. As a believer, this is my story and my song. How had I missed it?

While my dad’s physical heart was all but broken, my spiritual heritage is a heart born much the same. Diseased by sin, the brokenness that is separation from Christ, is not only my inheritance from Adam and Eve, but left to my own devices, it is my choice as well. But God. His promise to the prophet Ezekiel speaks of His transplanting love for His people.

“I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:25-26 CSB

The doctors did this in the physical for my dad. My heavenly Father has done this spiritually for me. For you. For us. We are all transplant recipients.

No wonder it was all so incredibly wonderful and vaguely familiar. This is my story because this is how He works.

The day my dad was placed on the transplant list was a tough one. He had already been in the hospital for weeks. He was in a slow but steady decline from a heart attack and a surgery that didn’t provide the fix we had hoped for. This was not plan A or B. We had pivoted so many times by now we had lost track of where we were alphabetically. But none of that mattered. The reality of this list was a sobering place to be. Someone else would die. My dad would, hopefully, live.

The medical staff, trained for this, reassured my family. “Know this. No one is dying for you. They are dying and giving you an incredible gift, but you need to remember that they are not dying because of you or for you.”

I suppose this speech is given to lessen the weight, the potential guilt, that may come with being the recipient of such a gift. Clarity is important here.

But this is where my story, our story, becomes even more incredible. Even more astounding than my dad walking around now, living a healthy life now, with a heart younger than my own - is the fact that someone did choose it for me. Jesus chose the cross.

In His righteous perfection, he chose the suffering of the cross, the shame of my sin, so that by his death He could afford me, and you, not just days and years, but eternity with Him.

When my mom called that Wednesday in February and offered those simple words, “They found a heart,” it was the call of lifetime. I will never forget those words, those tears, that overwhelming gratitude. It was good news. But as beautiful as that moment was, I’m arrested by the fact that our news, our hope, our gift of a new heart is greater still. His suffering was chosen, endured, on our behalf. And His grace, a new heart for eternity, resurrection life, was gifted to you and me.

What a Savior. May we stand in awe. And celebrate.