I got a good look at my heart on Sunday morning.
It wasn’t any kind of religious experience, though maybe it was something of one: I had an echocardiogram.
It is profound to see one’s own beating heart. As a friend said to me about their own similar experience: we talk about our hearts all the time, but to see that muscle pumping in real time . . . . it is both sobering and wonder-inducing.
As I looked at the screen and as the technician identified this chamber, that valve, I was a little undone by the realization that this muscle has been doing the work of keeping me alive my whole life. I thought I had been appropriately thankful for that gift. But seeing my heart — or at least an image of my heart and much of its structural intricacy — I was moved to gratitude in ways that I didn’t know quite what to do with in that moment, dressed as I was in a baggy hospital gown, lying uncomfortably on my side, the noises and flickers of light coming incessantly from the machine, the helpful technician, chatting to me. It was such a sterile, clinical setting, yet it seemed like a holy moment.
When you see this muscle on a sonogram it strikes you as odd that we use the heart as a metaphor for so many aspects of our humanity. We talk about a broken heart while clearly this is as durable an organ as is in the human body. We say we’re heartsick but we don’t mean by that coronary disease. We call a beloved “sweetheart” but the sight of this muscle doesn’t invoke thoughts confectionary. We’re told to follow our heart, to speak from the heart, to name our heart’s desire.
We want to get to the heart of the matter, act out of the goodness of our hearts, take heart (not lose heart), We don’t want to have a heavy heart, a cold heart, a heart of stone (a heart of gold is best). We want to learn by heart, know by heart, open wide our hearts.
Meanwhile, this muscle in the chest does its silent work. Sometimes we don’t treat it well by lifestyle choices we make. Sometimes our hearts fail us. Eventually, inevitably, our hearts will fail every one of us, or at least cease from their labors once and for all.
But seeing with the eyes of the heart (Eph. 1:18) we can try to love all beating hearts and the people whose lives these faithful hearts make possible. And we can be grateful.
P.S. My echocardiogram was routine (no health worries). But it was kind of strange having it scheduled on a Sunday morning.