Hypothermia of the Heart


On my bucket list, #3 reads: Shoot a deer.

Three years ago, I decided to try and cross off #3. So we headed to my hometown of Montrose to roam hills that are typically laden with bucks, does, and fawns. Elk, too. Pastor Mike tagged along that year, and the plan was that he would take Andrew and hike up one ledge, while Shaun took me to hike up another, and we would all meet at the truck come high noon.

Shaun doesn’t do so well with the sit and wait type of hunting, so the plan within the plan was that when the two of us reached the top of our ledge, he would take a merry hike through the valley below to try and scare something out. Preferably a buck, since that’s what my tag was for.

It didn’t work. For a few hours, I sat on a cold, hard, damp rock, rifle in one hand, binoculars in the other. The only movement I saw came from a twig. Once, when I looked through the binoculars, I noticed it was difficult to shift my eyes from left to right, as if they were beginning to freeze in their sockets. When Shaun arrived minutes later, I said, “I’m beginning to get pretty cold. We better get moving.”

But it was too late. Not five minutes later, my teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. Soon, I became disoriented, barely able to decipher the difference between snow packed ground and overcast sky. Everything blurred together, topsy turvy. My entire body shook. I couldn’t think. Shaun debated whether to stop and start a fire or keep me moving, in the hopes of getting my blood flowing. He decided on the latter, despite my desire to climb inside his jacket like a hundred pound baby in a baby wrap while he fumbled around for matches and tried to spark a full-blown fire.

What can I say? Hypothermia makes a gal nuts.

It was one of those moments where you’re pretty sure that unless something miraculous happens, you’re going to die. I’ve never been that cold in my life. In spite of being a disoriented nut case, I was aware I was experiencing hypothermia, and was not far from the final stage when, in spite of being ice cold, a feeling of warmth sets in and ushers you into a deep sleep that then ushers you right into eternity.

So I walked. And I comforted myself with Paul’s words:

Absent from the body, present with the Lord.

Whatever happened, happened. My job was to step, step, step. One foot in front of the other, until a sovereign decision was made as to whether my blood would flow or freeze.

How reminiscent of the Christian walk. Here I am, Lord, with a stone cold heart, and unless you intervene, stone cold I shall remain.

There’s an initial warming of our hypothermic hearts that occurs when we become His. But I’m here to tell you that once warm always warm isn’t the way it goes down. Cooler weather always comes. And suddenly, we find ourselves frigid and once again praying change my heart, O God, make it ever true …

We should pray that. But we shouldn’t simply pray and then assume God will do all the work. He works in us to will and to do. Even when we feel frigid, we have to keep walking by reading His Word, assembling ourselves together, making disciples and being disciples, loving our neighbor, and developing fruits of the Spirit.

It’s hard. That trek I made hand in hand with Shaun back to the truck was uphill, people. I didn’t feel one iota of strength for my next step. Everything in my body was telling me to lie down, give up, forget the bucket list and kick the bucket. Is that not the way it is with this thing we call a relationship with Jesus Christ? We experience a valley, and spiritually, we get cold, because harrumph!! life isn’t turning out the way we planned, and He’s not giving us what we want. So we reach a pivotal moment. We either succumb to our fatigue and negativity, or we faint not and eventually reap. Whatever our decision, we should remember this:

The question is never whether He’s doing His part, because God always keeps His promises. He will keep us. The question is always whether we are doing ours. It would have been futile (and maybe fatal) for Shaun to walk for me. He could bear my load (read: carry my rifle), hold my hand, and orient me in the right direction. But walking was my task.

So if the weather outside is frightful and the fire inside your heart is not so delightful, take a step, and then another, believing that He is able to keep you from stumbling. Sooner or later, the simple but oh-so-hard task of walking whilst hypothermic will land you exactly where it landed me: safe on the hilltop.

Yet in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. ~Romans 8:37

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