The Parable of the Old Man With a New Heart

I’ve been reading J. K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard — fairy tales for wizards and witches (part of the Harry Potter series). It’s put me in the mood to write my own.

Once upon a time there was an old man — over 100 years old, in fact. And he had a bad heart. It had always been bad — even from birth. But when he was young, the vigor and purposefulness of youth allowed him to grow and even for a time to thrive. But his heart was always weak and diseased.

As he grew older, and as the zeal of youth declined (as inevitably happens, you know), his bad heart took a terrible toll on his health. No longer did the years bring him growth and success. No, the years brought frailty and misery, as his heart weakened and failed to supply his organs with the blood they need. Over time, even his voice shriveled so that very few could hear him. By the time he went to see the physician, about the only thing working well was his spleen.

Finally, he went to the physician and the physician did a thorough physical. He ran countless tests and looked at him inside and out. And the physician decided he needed a new heart.

The old man wasn’t sure about this. He’d had his old heart for over 100 years, and as he told the physician, he’d grown quite attached to it! He was afraid of surgery. In fact, he was afraid of change of any kind.

But this physician was great. Using physician powers that ordinary physicians don’t have, he gave the man a new heart — without any surgery at all. The physician simply converted some of the tissue already in the man to be a new heart, such was his greatness.

The man soon recovered from the procedure and felt better. Some of his organs mended quickly with a fresh, steady supply of blood, but some organs had been unused for so long, they had trouble recovering. In fact, while they were mending, the old man felt pangs and twitches and stings. Sometimes, he was in quite a lot of pain.

He complained to the physician, but the physician gently explained that pain is a necessary part of healing. “I can only take the pain away if I take the new heart out of you,” he explained.

The old man was unhappy about this. He wanted a pill or potion that would make the change easy, but the physician said no. “That’s not the nature of things.”

Soon, despite the pain, the old man was doing far more work around his house than in many, many years. In fact, he felt so good that he was helping his neighbors and making new friends. He’d never felt so alive!

But one night he grew very sick. He ran a fever and had hard chills. He lost his appetite. He was so sick he didn’t even go to see the physician. He thought, “I’ll just lie here and die and then I’ll longer have to put up with the pain from this new heart.”

Fortunately, the physician knew where he lived and came for a house call (I said he was a great physician, unlike any on earth, you know). The physician poked and prodded and stuck tubes here and there. Soon he had a very serious face.

“Your body is rejecting your new heart. Sometimes this happens. Even though your heart and body are genetically identical, the body is old and used to a weak, sick heart. And it seems that parts of your body don’t want to have the new heart.

“But,” he smiled, “you’re not dead yet. Your mind controls your body. To live, you need only decide to live. It’s really up to you. There’s always hope. Always.”

The old man was confused. “Can’t you give me something? Can’t you give me medicine or a shot or something?”

“No,” replied the physician, “I’ve given you everything you need. There is no other cure. I can’t make you want to have a new heart. That’s something you have to do for yourself.

“And so, you have a decision to make. Do you want to endure the pain of adjusting to the new heart, the pain of change? Or would you rather die? The days I gave you when your youth returned and you were of value to your neighbors and making friends everywhere you went, do you want that — even though it hurts? Or do you want your old, comfortable, worn out heart back?

“There are no other choices. I can give you back your old heart or let you can keep your new one. But only you can decide whether life is worth the pain of change.”

The old man told the physician that he didn’t know the truth of the matter. He insisted that he could live forever with his old heart! And then the physician reminded him of the days of sickness and decline. And so the old man insisted that change could occur without pain. He’d seen it all the time! But the physician assured him that, when it comes to hearts, this just isn’t true.

And so the man was of two minds — hating the pain and yet wanting to live, not realizing that the pain of living, although intense, would be brief. Soon enough, he’d forget about the pain and enjoy many more years of life. But the man could think of little but the present. And while he struggled to make up his mind, his body continued to reject its new heart — and he hurt more and more.

The End

Well, not the end. Just the end of the part that’s been written. You see, the readers have to write the rest.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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