In 1979 I went into Emory (Atlanta) hospital for a physical. I passed the stress test with flying colors. Yet on review, the doctor thought he saw something that amounted to a problem. So the test was run again, and this time turned up a notch. I flunked! On the main artery 80-90 percent was blocked. Two of the other arteries were seriously closed.
The doctor at Emory explained the options. “I can put you on a restricted diet cut back your activities and bring out the rocking chair. “When can you be ready to operate,” I said. “In about a week came the reply.”
I entered the hospital and placed in a ward with a number of others that were waiting on various kinds of surgery. Scared? You bet! The night before the operation the surgeon (his name was Jones) came by the door. He stood there for a moment, looking over the field and then said, “Exum, Exum, where are you”. I was stunned. He didn’t even know me. He had never even met me, yet he was the one that would be splitting my chest bone, prying the two sections apart, lifting out my crippled heart, taking eight inches of vein out of both lower legs and splicing them around the three blocked arteries. I would be subsisting on a heart-bypass and lung machine, and clinically dead! And the guy that was going to do all this didn’t even know me.
I waved my hand indicating that I was the one he was looking for. My Dad had died from angina and my older brothers had already had by-passes, and now it was my turn. But he didn’t even know me! “O, there you are”, he said. He began to recite my credits. “You’re not a smoker, not obese, and your blood pressure is excellent.” He turned to leave. I cried out, “NO!” He was shocked by my reactions. “Come here”, I said in a commanding voice. He obeyed reluctantly. I pointed to a straight chair near my bed and said “SIT DOWN”. He acted like this was a new experience to him, but he complied.
With tears in my eyes I admitted my fears. I knew the seriousness of that surgery for it was still experimental. I asked for his hand and he reached out for mine. I wanted to touch him, hold his hand and look him in the eye. I wanted a surgeon that knew me and loved me and cared about me and wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. I refused to be a number on a computer chart. I just wanted to look into his heart for compassion and be assured as I examined his hands that these hands were the ones that would do the job right.
I cannot tell you that his life was changed at that moment in time, but I believed that the experience left an indelible impression on him. He lingered a while more and we talked.
When the surgery was over and I was well on my way of recovery, he reflected on that exchange. He seemed more like a friend than a surgeon. Bed manners – Ah! They are far more important than most doctors care to admit, or seek to change; the heart is sacred. You write poems about the heart you don’t write poems about your liver!
Is that why Moses wrote and Jesus cited the passage that reads, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:38-39).
I know the difference between the fleshly heart and the HEART – MIND, the center of intelligence and conscience. That’s the marvelous piece of work that thinks, loves, feels, and knows. I remember as a young preacher talking with an old minister of another faith. He said, “When I got saved, I was in the barnyard, and I felt so giddy, my heart was going, thump-thump, and I became light as a feather and felt like I could jump over the barn”. I replied, “I don’t mean any disrespect sir, but I felt the same way the first time I kissed my girl!”
The Word of God gives you the assurance of salvation, not your feelings. Feelings do not create truth – they follow truth. When you do what is right and fulfill the commands of God, then you feel good.
One young believer had a vision one night. Three little clouds formed in the corner of his bedroom. They spelled the letter “GPC”, and to him that meant “GO PREACH CHRIST.”
Bless his heart he tried, but proved a miserable failure. After the service he spoke with an old farmer, and said, “I just can’t understand it sir, I saw the letters very clearly. The wise old man said, “Son, the letter you saw (GPC) may have meant “GO PLOW CORN.”
The commission of Christ is simple. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).
We don’t need a special vision to begin. We just need to begin!