Last Sunday I was watching some of the coverage of the US Open golf tournament. During the broadcast they showed a human interest story about Erik Compton, a professional golfer who has had two heart transplants, one at age 12 and the second at 28. He is currently 34 and his play this week was by far the best of his professional career. On one of golf's largest stages he played better than he has ever played before, finishing in second place.
Stories like this touch our heartstrings. They draw us in with their emotional power. A man with a heart so weak that he was on the threshold of death…twice. The narrator referred to the open door of death as "that big white light." Erik Compton was at that door, twice, and could easily have passed through. He was held back through the generosity of an organ donor and the skill of a medical team. And on Sunday he stood almost at the very pinnacle of his profession. A story of triumph over adversity.
The narrator of the story gave the sense that in receiving a new heart and the life that went with it, which for Compton has included marriage and a daughter since the second transplant, the best possible outcome has been achieved. But as a Christian I think there are a some other points to consider.
The Apostle Paul, writing from prison and facing the possibility of death, wrote this in Philippians 1:20-23,
"It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."
For Paul, the thing that mattered was that he gave glory to God. If he lived, he wanted it to be to the glory of God, and in the same way he considered the possibility of his death, that it would be a death that pointed others to God. And he knew that from the perspective of what was best for him personally, it was death, for he knew he would pass through death's door and into the everlasting presence of his Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
I know nothing of the faith of Erik Compton. Neither the Wikipedia entry or his personal webpage have any insights into that. If he is a person of faith then I pray that as a husband, a father, a golfer, a friend…that whatever he does in life is done to the glory of God.
And if he is not a person of faith then I pray that God may turn his heart towards Christ, so that in his life post heart transplant he comes to know the joy of eternal life. When he comes, for the final time, to that big, white light, I want him to do so knowing his Savior is waiting for him on the other side.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.