Tag Archive | Jan Karon

Open-Heart Surgery

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I use a one-word prompt provided by a friend and write for just 10 minutes without heavy editing and see what I come up with. Today’s prompt is “surgery.”

In the evenings, my family is reading out loud the classic At Home in Mitford by Jan Caron. Yesterday’s reading including a scene where Hoppy Harper, the town doctor, was telling Father Tim, the main character in the stories, how it was when his wife died several years before.

Mitford

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“I’ve been away from church so long . . . so long away from . . . believing.” Hoppy leaned against the wall, avoiding the rector’s gaze. “I’ve been very angry with God.”

“I understand.”

“He operated without anesthetic.”

He looked at the man who had lost his wife of sixteen years, and saw the sure mark that bitterness and overwork had left. Yet, something tonight was easier in him.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, p. 148

 

 

Loss can feel that way, like surgery without anesthetic. Hoppy’s wife had died of cancer, and he wasn’t really ready for it. And it hurt.

A lot.

It was a good analogy for the town doctor to describe the pain he felt.

People in the medical profession know that deep infections have to be cut out in order for healing to happen. If there is an abscess, work will need to be done. A gangrened limb has to be cut off. It’s really better to get these things taken care of before such dire measures are needed.

Likewise, God will perform surgery on our hearts whenever there’s something that needs to be cut out: idolatry, envy, covetousness. But He can also pry open our closed hearts if we aren’t letting ourselves be known by others.

We were created to live in community, and if we’re not experiencing authentic community, God may need to get our attention to let us know that we’re holding ourselves back.

Just having friends isn’t enough. We need to be willing to open up ourselves, to be real, to be known, to be authentic. If we don’t do this ourselves, we might find ourselves experiencing depression or extreme loneliness. It’s not healthy for our hearts to hide themselves.

There’s also a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Dawn Treader where the boy Eustace, who has been turned into a dragon because of his greed and generally obnoxious personality, has an encounter with the lion, Aslan. In order to be turned back into a real boy, Eustace has to undergo a type of surgery.

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After several attempts to free himself from the terrible dragon scales, Eustace hears Aslan say,

“You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I had turned into a boy again.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, pp 90-91.

Our scaly hearts need God’s attention. And He won’t always use anesthetic. But we can be assured that the outcome will be worth it.

Ezekiel 33:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (New International Version).

 

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Tough Lovin’

“In the end, love must be a kind of discipline. If we love only with our feelings, we’re sunk–we may feel love one day and something quite other the next. Soon  after he came to live with me–he was eleven years old at the time–I realized I must learn to love with my will, not my feelings. I had to love him when he threw his shoe at the wall and cussed my dog, love him when he called me names I won’t repeat, love him when he refused to eat what I’d cooked after celebrating and preaching at three Sunday services . . . you get the idea.

“And so I enjoyed the warm feelings, the stuff of the heart, when it was present between us, as it sometimes was, even in the beginning. And when it wasn’t, there was the will to love him something like . . . a generator kicking in, a back up.

“I learned over a long period of trial and error to see in him what God made him to be. Wounded people use a lot of smoke and mirrors, they thrust the bitterness and rage out there like a shield. Then it becomes their banner, and finally, their weapon. But I stopped falling for the bitterness and rage. I didn’t stop knowing it was there–and there for a very good reason–but I stopped taking the bullet for it. With God’s help, I was able to start seeing through the smoke. I saw how bright he was, . . . how talented, and how possible it was for him to triumph over so much that hounded him.

“I stopped praying for God to change Dooley; I asked God to change me–to give me His eyes to see into the spirit of this exceptional broken boy.”

Father Tim Cavanagh, on how he loved his adopted son through the hard early years. (In the Company of Others by Jan Karon)

The Truth is in the Fiction

I just finished reading Jan Karon’s Home to Holly Springs, the first in the Father Tim series of novels. My husband first got me interested in these special books, of which this is a kind of “prequel,” which take place in a Blowing Rock-esque town in western North Carolina. He grew up around there, and I can hear his kin in the language of the people Karon paints.

I had a friend on Goodreads call the books “comfortable.” I agree. They are a place of calm in a busy world.

Anyway, this conversation between Father Tim and his new friend, T, at Tim’s childhood home in Mississippi struck me.  I don’t want to give anything away in case anyone wants to read the book, so I’ll just say that Tim is facing something very difficult, and T questions him about it.

“How does knowin’ God help you out in a case like this?”

“I believe He has a purpose for everything. I believe He’ll bring good out of this, maybe even a way I won’t like very much. It’s His call, not mine.”

“Seems like any God a’tall would want you down here bustin a gut, not leavin’ it all up to Him.”

“Seems like. But it doesn’t work that way. We’ve got to let Him do the heavy lifting. We’ve got to grunt, that’s for sure, but we’ve got to let Him lift. The challenge is to trust Him. Right now, I’m trusting Him. Running a little scared, but trusting Him.”

Amen.

Thankful today for:

234. air conditioning

235. Sunday morning

236. only two more nights alone