By Norris Burkes July 17 2022
I still remember a moment twenty years ago when my middle daughter, Brittney, finished watching a movie called “John Q,” a 2002 drama starring Denzel Washington.
If you saw the film, you’ll recall how Washington played John Quincy Archibald, a desperate father whose insurance company refuses to pay for his son’s heart transplant.
When selling all his possessions fails to raise enough money for the heart transplant, John Q takes a heart surgeon hostage in the Emergency Room. Efforts to get his son on the heart-transplant list soon degrade, so John Q puts the gun to his head and takes several short breaths.
I’ll stop there in case you want to watch the movie.
It was that particular scene that stirred the internal drama in my teenager’s heart, provoking her to ask her parents a serious question.
“If I needed a heart, would you be willing to do that for me?”
My wife and I both stammered trying to describe how the movie oversimplified difficult healthcare questions. We tried to explain how police would make no deal with a gunman who’s taken over an ER.
I even told her how the movie paralleled a real-life hostage situation in Toronto in 1998 when Henry Masuka rushed his son to the St Michael’s Hospital Emergency Room. Finding no pediatrician on duty, he pulled a gun on ER staff. Police responded by killing Henry. His son was not injured, but Henry’s gun turned out to be an unloaded pelet gun.
Nevertheless, Brittney remained undeterred as she blazed past our explanation and said, “Okay, but would you do it? Would you kill yourself so that I could have your heart?”
I wasn’t sure whether she was asking if my love was sacrificial or suicidal. There’s a difference, but that’s probably another column.
However, her question remains among the oldest questions in humanity: Do you love me? How much? How will you show it?
Jesus had a similar moment with one particular disciple named Peter.
You may recall, Pete’s the guy who was almost arrested alongside Jesus. He evaded custody when, with such a convincing denial, authorities didn’t detain him.
Peter’s disavowal was something that Jesus would address at an early morning prayer breakfast shortly after his resurrection.
Over a flaming rotisserie of fish, Jesus posed his question designed to allow Peter to show Jesus his love – not just to say it.
“Peter,” he called, “Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, of course I love you.”
Three times Jesus asked the question, each repetition recalling Peter’s earlier three-time rejection. Each time following Peter’s reply, Jesus challenged him to “Feed my sheep.” (Meaning, take care of my followers.)
My daughter also asked me three times, yet it was the same question Jesus asked Peter. “What are you willing to do for love?”
She knew, as did Jesus, that love is a verb. While it can be expressed and declared with words, it’s more powerful when shown through our actions.
My daughter was asking me if I would express my love for her through action. Gratefully, twenty years after she posed this challenging question, I’m happy to say that she’s known my love through actions like hugs, presence and family support.
I’ve not yet had to give her my actual heart to prove my love. Because as many dads will tell you, my heart is already hers — it has been since the day she was born.
Read past columns on my website, www.thechaplain.net where you can also sign up to receive my column by email. Send comments to [email protected] or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715.