Life experiences often mirror spiritual journey

By Mary Ann Otto | Special to The Compass | March 16, 2016

What insights have you gained from your Lenten journey this year? I am always amazed at how the experiences of our lives often mirror our spiritual journey. I suppose that is why Jesus often used stories to drive home his point. For me personally this Lent, it is a heart story.

Two months ago, I went through heart ablation. It is my second in 20 years. This procedure deals with the electrical pathways of one’s heart. It looks to disengage the paths that are not part of healthy rhythms called atrial fibrillation.

An ablation actually burns the problematic pathways. For those of us who suffer from atrial fibrillation and symptoms like dizziness and fatigue, the seven hours of being under general anesthesia, the blood thinners, medications and aftercare is worth having a healthy heart. It also helps us not have to stop into the emergency room for the occasional cardio-version (using paddles to stop and start your heart again.)

Though I am not always a patient “patient,” I am grateful that it happened during Lent because I had time to reflect upon my heart issues on several levels. I was able to ponder my true commitment as a steward of lived gratitude, prayer, service and sharing which are the components of stewardship in the Diocese of Green Bay.

I was able to evaluate my stewardship pathways of receiving God’s gifts gratefully, nurturing them responsibly, sharing generously and returning them to God in abundance. I could ask myself: When did I stay on my pathway? How is my life in rhythm with whom I profess to be as a disciple of Jesus Christ? I was able to pinpoint the times when my heart went off the Jesus road and was less grateful, less prayerful, less at the service of others and less generous than I should have been.

For those of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus, the symptoms of living a less than generous life can be similar to those who suffer with atrial fibrillation. Having been marked with the Sign of the Cross at our baptism, our heart knows the generous and healthy pathway that Jesus calls us to, yet our humanness wants to follow a path that is promoted by the current culture.

The tension between it is all mine (my time, my talent, my treasure) and it’s all God’s (on loan to us) can cause our hearts to race, skip beats and lead to a spiritual dizziness and fatigue. Lent has been a good time for me to get a check-up.

Unlike the actual ablation procedure, a third party cannot correct my selfish impulses. I am unable to physically burn those unhealthy pathways. I’m also not able to make important changes while I’m, as my husband would say, having a very long nap. There is no medication that will snap my heart out of taking the ungenerous route. It is all between Jesus and me.

Prior to my procedure, I had a high power CT scan of my heart. Next, my wonderful electrophysiologist, Dr. Syed, and his team, stood on their feet for seven hours navigating the intricate pathways of my heart and I was on my way to a better quality of life. I wish my change of heart in living a generous life would be that immediate. Christian stewardship is the work of our free will and usually the work of a lifetime.

My heart is human and stubborn. Currently, it is remapping, which is a normal part of recovery. An ablation has a 75 percent success rate; and sometimes the unhealthy pathways grow back together. I have a heart monitor inserted in my chest that will monitor any irregularities and alert my physician.

I wish I had the perfect heart of Jesus and did not have to worry about a change of course in my Lenten 2016 commitments. I have a plan and I do not want to go backward in my recovery efforts. Yet I can be on the lookout for unhealthy symptoms of selfishness and return to a loving and merciful God for the needed cardio-version.

Scripture tells us that one day the Master will return and ask us for an account of our lives. If he wants to scan the pathways of our hearts, knowing he has the ultimate in high power imaging ability, what will he find? As professed disciples of Jesus, the pathway of Christian stewardship is the route to the joy to everlasting life.

Otto is Stewardship and Special Projects director for the diocesan Stewardship and Pastoral Services Department.

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