Real Men, Real Faith: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
- Tuesday, August 17, 2004
This is the dramatic moment when being a heart surgeon is put in perspective. This is when the true meaning of humility rushes to dominate life's playing field. This is when we surgeons realize that we are best just the riverbed and not the river. This is the moment when God's hand is felt, and His hand is all that matters.
Every time this moment comes, I say a prayer. The prayer is for life. It always includes the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd …"
The wait really lasts only a couple of minutes, but, oh, it seems like an eternity. We wait anxiously, with a profound and deep sense of humility, peering down at the flaccid heart, boldly spotlighted by the bright overhead lights, waiting – waiting for that first sign of life. Waiting for rebirth. And more silent prayer. We can do nothing more. It is totally, totally out of our control.
Is there a message to this story? Well, for me it's that whatever we do in life, ultimately, we serve God in whatever way we are so blessed. We don't determine outcome. We don't dictate success. We are just the riverbed for a gloriously flowing magnificent river.
And what a lesson on giving! The gift is the gift of life from one person to another. A gift is the ultimate expression of love – and the donation of an organ is the ultimate physical gift. Who was that 23-year-old woman whose life was so tragically taken in the auto accident, who acted so selflessly, literally giving of herself so others – whom she had never met and would never know – might live?
All of us try to find ways to give that are within our power. But sometimes we just think about it and don't take action and do it. Although most people don't even like to think about organ donation and try to avoid the subject altogether, organ donation is the ultimate physical gift. The donation of an organ is a gift more powerful than any other – the gift of life. Jesus tells us in John 15 that there is no gift greater than this. He said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, KJV).
And he also told us to give freely, purely, out of love, without thought of reward: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. … When you give … do not announce it with trumpets … do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matt. 6:1-4)/
There is no gift purer or loftier or more selfless than the gift of a heart or a kidney or a lung. Neither the donor nor his or her family receives or expects anything in return. There are no strings attached. There can't be! And yet the donor, who gives such an intimate and priceless gift, is rewarded with something just as priceless – a gift that transforms a moment of death into new life, transcendent life that continues after physical presence of either donor or recipient.
It's a little like the light of the Lord, which, once shared with another, radiates out from person to person until all within its reach are lit by the fire of love.
This story also says something about miracles. In our everyday lives – climbing out of bed, getting the kids off to school, driving to work, buying groceries, working at the office – miracles often seem like legends left over from childhood. But miracles are not only the stuff of the great stories of the Bible – making the blind see, the lame walk, the dead rise.
Miracles are the manifestation of God in our everyday lives. As a transplant surgeon, I was blessed to see it day after day, week after week, year after year in the operating room. How can an inert piece of muscle, stored in an ice chest for three hours, completely separated from its sustaining blood supply and transported hundreds of miles across the country, explode back to life when placed in another person's body?
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