Saturday, July 2, 2011

What's in Your Tennis Bag? What's in Your Heart?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart this past year—what it does as our most vital organ—literally and metaphorically. In late June 2010, I was diagnosed with a rare heart condition and implanted with a pacemaker/defibrillator. Essentially it aids my defective heart; potentially it can save my life. Pacemakers are fairly common; defibrillators and ARVD (my condition) are not. In a similar vein, I would like to think my beliefs are heart health are widely understood and accepted, but today I would like to offer one that is not.

In his autobiography “Open,” Andre Agassi says “The tennis bag is a lot like your heart—you have to know what’s in it at all times. “ I am sure every cardiologist in America could read this and agree—hopefully there is an absence of cholesterol or plaque and instead it is a muscle that transmits oxygenated blood efficiently and effectively. But Agassi is speaking of something different.

What’s in your heart? Peace? Gratitude? Envy? Solace? Bitterness? Joy? Love? All of the above?

I hope my heart pumps virtue, but from time to time I find that some of the aforementioned vices creep in. For example, bitterness is both unattractive and insidious. Unless I am sincerely grateful, seeking to forgive others and myself, it slowly builds. No one will need a triple bypass to remove bitterness, but it’s a noteworthy image to remind us what can occur.

July 1 was the feast to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In his posting “Why Pray to the Sacred Heart? Fr Pat McCloskey, O.F.M states “This devotion, promoted especially by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690), was and is a way of softening the image of God as primarily lawgiver, judge and punisher. Devotion to the Sacred Heart says two things at the same time: Jesus is indeed fully human (people regard the heart as the seat of human emotions) and God forgives those who repent.” The Catechism (P:1439) reminds us that....Only the Heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way. The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.

We are called to live like Christ and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart reminds me that I am to love like Christ as well. That’s not an easy thing to do; the Gospel is testimony of Jesus’ love for those who society shuns. His example and the image of the Sacred Heart however, can serve as spiritual tools. With both in mind, perhaps I can live and love more like Him.

During the French Open, the Tennis Channel ran a series of ads entitled “Bag Check.” It was fun to see the many personalities on the tour run through their “briefcase.” And it’s been fun for me to think of it as symbolic of their heart.

Wimbledon finalist Novak Djokovic carries quite a bit in his bag. It’s entertaining to watch him pull out a gift from his brothers, a Serbian flag that he won via Davis Cup, a hat from his beloved homeland, a bracelet featuring the saints and a tripic of his patron saint. The metaphor comes to life; what’s in his heart is without a doubt in his bag.

Playing singles tennis for me can seriously compromise my heart health but golf is my new love. I now use my golf bag as my metaphor. What’s in my golf bag? What’s in my heart? Whatever your sport, take inventory!

Photo Credits

Agassi with his bag
Sacred Heart Icon
Djokovic's Heart is in Serbia

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