By Dr. Becky Towne
My youngest granddaughter was born with a heart defect—she only has half of a heart. She spent many weeks at Colorado Children’s Hospital and was surrounded by a great team of surgeons and nurses. Her half-heart can now do everything her body needs. The surgeons and staff were instrumental in that process. She turns one year old this month. Our family is so happy to celebrate with Maelyn and to give praise to God.
I was born with a heart defect, but I didn’t know it. The defect wasn’t noticeable at first, but, as the years went by, it became obvious. My heart was filled with fear. It seemed natural to be afraid early on, but, even as a child, there was a period in my life when I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid I would die.
As I grew older, I could mask the fear, but it was still there.
The first time I became acutely aware of the presence of fear was a couple of decades ago during a silent reflection time at a women’s retreat. An image came to mind during prayer, which I can only credit to God. I was standing on the edge of a cliff with breakers pounding the sides of the cliff far below. I would never knowingly stand on the edge of a cliff—I just couldn’t do it. Before I could back away from the edge very far, however, the scene was transformed. Instead of a cliff, I was standing on a green, grassy hill that sloped gently to the sea below. Standing beside me was Jesus. We simply stood together, arms encircling one another. I was aware of the greatest sense of peace that I could remember. Something changed in me that very moment.
During the last three years, I have faced some unexpected changes in my life, including the birth of Maelyn. The messages from Scripture have been as strong to me as I can imagine they were to the first hearers of the words, “Fear not.” Two recipients of that command come to mind—Mary, when she heard the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to her as “favored one” (Lk 1:28-30), and John, when he encountered the glorified Christ (Rev 1:17). There are many more.
Like the second sound in a heartbeat, as I hear the command “fear not,” I also hear the gentle reminder from Jesus to Julian of Norwich—“Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Revelations of Divine Love, #27). And then there are 4-year-old Colton Burpo’s words from “Heaven is for Real” when he comforts a child dying of cancer after his visit to heaven—“everything will be okay.”
Maelyn’s heart has been transformed. It isn’t fixed. It will never be normal, but she is living life to the fullest—loving her family, her toys, and her newfound joy—food. My heart has been transformed as well. Dwelling on the good words—fear not, all shall be well, and everything will be okay—allow less and less room for debilitating fear and more and more room for trust in a God who offers no occasion to fear.
Dr. Becky Towne
Associate Academic Dean and
Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Houston Graduate School of Theology