A Hot Mess – When Our Hearts Go Haywire

Awhile ago my oldest daughter was remarking that her almost two-year old son was feeling out of sorts because he was teething.

She warned me. Any second he’ll go from being just fine to dissolving into a hot mess.

I pictured that scene in my mind and then I watched it happen.

Logan went from fine and dandy to collapsing on the floor, sobbing as he went down, and staying there. He sure looked the picture of a hot mess with tears streaming down his cheeks, hair all mussed up, and his mouth quivering. It was quite the transformation.

Unlike toddlers who are still too young to truly understand all the fits and frustrations they feel and how to cope with them, adults know better than to dissolve into hot messes every time something goes wrong.

Still, I’ve seen quite a few hot messes take place in big people (and I’ve been known to dissolve into a hot mess myself.)

I think about how much sway our hearts have on our behavior.

When we’re at peace inside even the most turbulent event/conversation/setback doesn’t steal our composure and either paralyze us, provoke us, or push us into acting out in ways we’ll soon regret.

Sadly, taming our hearts is a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment choice of our will…not a one time end-all heart decision. Rather, it’s like the heart surgeon who burns a bit here and there…to bring healing to the misbehaving parts of our heart…but getting burned always involves some pain. Always.

Let me leave you with Max Lucado’s own story of getting his physical heart operated on and how he related the experience to his soulful heart.

Some years ago I underwent a heart procedure. My heartbeat had the regularity of a telegraph operator sending Morse code. Fast, fast, fast. Sloooooow. After several failed attempts to restore healthy rhythm with medication, my doctor decided I should have a catheter ablation. The plan went like this: a cardiologist would insert two cables in my heart via a blood vessel. One was a camera; the other was an ablation tool. To ablate is to burn. Yes, burn, cauterize, singe, brand. If all went well, the doctor, to use his coinage, would destroy the “misbehaving” parts of my heart.

As I was being wheeled into surgery, he asked if I had any final questions. (Not the best choice of words.) I tried to be witty.

“You’re burning the interior of my heart, right?”


“You intend to kill the misbehaving cells, right?”

“That is my plan.”

“As long as you are in there, could you take your little blowtorch to some of my greed, selfishness, superiority, and guilt?”

He smiled and answered, “Sorry, that’s out of my pay grade.”

Indeed it was, but it’s not out of God’s. He is in the business of changing hearts.

What I like best about this little story is that we’re all the same on the inside and Lucado reminds us of this in the gentlest way possible. Every one of us struggles with greed, selfishness, superiority, and guilt. In other words, we all have misbehaving hearts that turn into hot messes when we’re not honest with ourselves.

The part of the Lucado’s story that I didn’t share was his final comments about taming our misbehaving hearts…remember, he writes, change comes in fits and starts, in brief moments of “ahas” and then periods of regression. A little burn here, a little singe there…and yes, expect some pain in the process.


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