Nearly two weeks ago I passed the Bible Content Exam – a feat that has taken me four times to complete. As I made my way to the classroom’s door that morning, my school’s dean of students told me I could celebrate by eating some free breakfast tacos. Passing a hard exam and getting free tacos is usually a joyous occasion, but I, instead, broke down crying, sputtering out, “I can’t eat anything!”
“Stress has your stomach upset? That’s understa-“
“No (sniff) I can’t eat because I’m fasting because I have a (inhale) stress test today because my heart has been hurting (wipe nose on sleeve) and I’m terrified that I’m going to die.”
I’ve been having some chest pain for over a year – lately it feels like someone has their thumb against my chest all the time, but for the past few years there’s been other weird feelings in my heart. Practically speaking, I have avoided the doctor because paying for deductibles, co-pays, and medication as well as finding time to make an appointment is all overwhelming. But emotionally, being scared to know the reality of what may be wrong with my heart has kept me from going to a doctor (ignorance is bliss, after all); but not going to a doctor has exacerbated my fears and potential health issues. It’s a terrible cycle and place in life, but it’s my life.
As I unloaded my ever-so-brief medical history on her, I could tell it was not what she was expecting in that moment – she has been with me in all my previous attempts at this bible exam and she was hoping for more…joy…because I had finally passed. This health exam news was new territory for both of us and she did her best to pour on pastoral care mixed with an overabundance of re-framing of the situation. She suggested I look at some pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and meditate on the humanity of Jesus’ heart.
This suggestion has been on my mind these past two weeks as my heart continues to ache and test results show ‘abnormalities’, forcing me to even more tests and unexpected unknowns. But it’s made me ponder about the humanity and physical body of Christ. I wonder if Christ ever felt weak as he trudged up a mountain to get away from the crowds…did his heart pound in his chest as he weaved through the brush? I wonder if his chest felt like a thousand elephants sat on it as he prayed in the garden, knowing what would happen in the coming hours…did he have trouble catching his breath as he knelt on that rocky ground? Did the stress and pain of his work ever affect his physical body?
The mystery of Jesus’ heart is just as mysterious as mine, but perhaps the mystery is where I can find my rest in these uncertain moments. I don’t – and won’t – know the answers to these questions about Christ, nor about my heart, for some time. Answers to tough questions require a bit of time, a bit of knowledge, and a bit of trust: trust that answers will come…trust that I’ll know what I need to know…trust that God, indeed, is in control. I find it assuring that my God might have experienced something I am experiencing and that we have something in common…something we can talk about…something we can complain about.
There are some things I know are coming next for me: more tests, more doctor’s appointments, more leafy green salads. And there are still a lot of unknowns, and I will work to rest in those unknowns. And I’ll hope to find comfort that God had a body like mine, and perhaps it, too, had some issues like mine.
much love. sheth.