It had been going on for days. It started with a fever with faces flushed and heads that hurt. They slept by the hour, my tired boys, and then came the cough.
One by one, they fell. One by one, ever so slowly, they began to recover. All, that is, except for Boy Three whose fever had subsided, but whose spark was still gone.
I nearly sent him to school that Monday. Sitting at the coffee shop preparing to write the column, I felt a hesitation, a check in my spirit. And so I called home. "Tell him," I said to his father, "to stay there. I'm taking him in."
In one of those odd, spur-of-the-moment decisions that appear at once to be coincidence, I took him right uptown to a clinic just around the corner from us instead of to our normal family doctor. She looked in his ears, listened to him breathe, and inspected his throat.
Sure enough. "Bronchitis," she said. Then, "Otitis and sinusitis," all words I'd half expected to hear.
I noted, as she listened to his heart, that she was taking her time. What, I wondered, was she hearing?
Then came words I wasn't expecting. Words like "heart murmur, grade 2-3." Words like "aortic valve area" and "pediatric cardiologist." And words like "loud" and "turbulent blood flow," all phrases and terms that this cardiology transcriptionist types all the time – for other people.
I told her then about my family's extensive history of heart disease. Her face turned grave when I told her four letters, abbreviations of a syndrome that multiple family members had been diagnosed with and which had proven fatal for one.
She called me at home the next day. "I would love to be proven wrong," she said, "but I've scheduled an appointment with a top-line cardiologist from Riley Children's Hospital in Indy. They’ve given me the first available appointment.”
The next morning, with this unexpected news heavy on my heart, I remembered the whisper of the Spirit the day before as I drove along in the predawn darkness before the doctor's phone call.
"Yes, You are."
"Am I omnipotent?"
"Yes, You are."
"Is My arm shortened, that it cannot save?"
"No. It's not."
"Am I omniscient?"
"Yes, Lord. You know everything."
"Am I omnipresent?"
"Yes. You are everywhere present, always with me."
"Then can you let Me be God?"
"Yes. I will let You be God," my heart murmured back. And opening my hands, I let go.
That was several weeks ago. In the intervening days as we await the consultation, this mama has had plenty of time to think about hearts and murmurs and what ifs and my blue-eyed boy with the freckled nose.
Many people, I know, are born with benign congenital murmurs. They live long, productive lives with no impairment whatsoever and scarcely realize that their hearts are different. But that’s not everyone’s story. I know that, too.
How do parents rest as they await a diagnosis? The good news, of course, would be to hear the specialist say, “It’s nothing. Go home and live.” I am hopeful that we will hear those words. But if not, what then?
“Pray without ceasing,” Paul admonished in Thessalonians.
Hmm. Hearts and prayers and murmurs and burdens. My thoughts churn relentlessly.
What if a heart murmur is exactly what I need? What if that’s the way to pray without ceasing? Maybe, as His child, I was “born” with one, too?
That particular command, which seemed impossible and burdensome to me as a child, has become so precious. Living with a constant awareness of the presence of Christ is an unutterably sweet place to dwell. In that place, prayer is no burden. Rather, it’s the natural response of one’s heart to the Father.
Throughout the day as faces or worries or concerns come to my mind, I can lift them up to Him. Sometimes, all I can do is breathe His name. “Jesus,” I murmur. No matter what my hands are doing, my heart can whisper – can murmur, if you will, to the One whose hands are big enough and whose arm is strong enough.