Click the play button below to listen along while reading the story behind the lyrics:
I didn’t know it at the time, but two years before I met my wife, I wrote “Trading Heartbeats” for her. To me, it was a simple song picture that I wanted to capture. For Laura, it told the story of God’s rescue and the spiritual heart transplant He used to break her free.
30,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean on a plane flight home, I began writing out the interaction I had envisioned. I saw a woman dressed in black, lying on the ground, broken and surrounded by shadow. A soft glow appears and Jesus himself enters her darkness. Then defying logic, he too lies on the dirty floor, his head resting on the ground so their faces mirror one another. Their eyes meet and with one compassion-filled look, his message is conveyed. “I’m here with you.”
Life, relationships, failed love…these have left many of us lying on that same dirty floor of shame and regret.
And yet these experiences can often be the catalyst God uses to perform a spiritual heart transplant. We may not even be aware of our need for a new heart until our desire for joy fails to produce a response. Inside we have died, and joy becomes impossible. God’s delicate surgery removes the hard places inside of us that have long since ceased to be alive, replacing them with the wild pulse of true life through forgiveness, surrender, and love.
His surgery does not open wounds, but begins by closing them. The Surgeon’s knife may simply be a soft touch awaking us to intimacy we have long since forgotten.
At about the same time my intercontinental writing experience was taking place, my wife Laura was walking through a heartbreak that had left her curled on the ground in the shadows. I will let her tell her story in her own words…
My fragile heart had been through some really rough relationships and I thought I had finally come to the one that would last. Sadly, I gave my heart away before asking the Lord what He thought. A two and half year romance, complete with marriage discussions and future plans, ended abruptly without any warning or explanation. A 5-minute phone call and my world was shattered. I had given my heart to him and when he threw it back at me, it was very broken and scarred.
But The Lord was so gracious.
Over a period of time, God began speaking His whispers of love over me. He took me into his desert and spoke tenderly to me (Hosea 2). As He rebuilt my identity in Him, He sweetly showed me why He had allowed the breaking of that relationship…I had forgotten my first love. The most significant part of the journey back to Him happened during the exact time Scott was writing his song.
I had been in the school of worship at New Life church for several months. At a winter retreat, I was spending time with The Lord, trying to understand what forgiveness meant. I had “forgiven” the guy who broke my heart but I didn’t feel any release. As I prayed, I saw two hands cupped together, as if offering me something. Then, I saw The Lord in front of me, taking his heart out of his chest. His clean, beautiful, whole heart.
He offered it to me.
“Wait, this will only take a moment of your time.
And watch as I trade your dying heartbeat for mine.
I found you crying for me alone you wait in the dark.
I know you’re shaking but everything is all right now.
Hold on, just hold on.”
I took His heart, gladly.
But Jesus still stood in front of me with his hands cupped, waiting. He was gently asking me to give up my heart now. My broken, scarred, ugly heart. “How can I give this heart to you, Jesus? It’s broken. It doesn’t work right. I don’t want you to have this heart, it hurts too much and I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I am The Lord. I have the ability to make this heart whole again.”
“Let go of your memories from a love that he stole.
My touch is taking all your scars as my own.
I know this ash and the dirt feels like the place you belong.
I came to lay next to you so you can stand once again.”
In that moment, Jesus showed me what forgiveness meant. By giving me His heart (including His love for the man who hurt me) I could have a clear view of my past relationship without pain and bitterness. God graciously traded my broken heartbeat for His own.
“I’ll brush away the hair from your face that falls across your lovely eyes.
And all the fig leaves that still remain in the places that you try to hide.
So lay against me as I heal what is broken inside and what was taken away.
Feel your heart beat returning, I took your place.”
The final stage of God’s heart transplant process is carried out as we are wrapped up in His arms. It is in this place where we come to the end of ourselves. Our fig leaves have been stripped away. Our “I’m too broken” rejections of His pursuit have all been revealed as lies from a former lover. Our old hearts have been surrendered in exchange for a powerful new organ.
Only one thing remains to be done…Spiritual CPR…His breath of life offered, bringing us from the darkness into new life. Here is the rest of Laura’s story:
Several weeks after the retreat, I went home to Alaska. I drove to the spot where the breakup conversation had transpired. Alone in the parking lot, God showed me what had actually happened that day. As if replaying a scene in a movie, I saw myself in the car, having just hung up the phone. Then Jesus was there with me in that exact moment, over my lifeless body. He began performing CPR on me. I had died in that moment…or maybe I was dead long before that. Every push and breath He forced into my body was bringing me back to life, restoring my breath, repulsing my veins with HIS life.
“My lips to yours, I breath out, you breath in.
My life for yours, I breath out, you breath in.
So close to my chest you fall, go on breath out and breath in.
These arms will enfold you, breath out and breath in.
Let my heart beat with yours, just breath out just breath in.”
God saved me from the darkness and death of the life I had chosen. Out of His great love, He would not let me stay in that place. He gave me new life in that moment as well as a new heart to move forward into the amazing life He had planned for me with Scott.
Can you feel it, the strong pulse of a new heart beating in anticipation of the life we were meant to live? It’s always been yours. Even now He waits, laying in the dust with you, longing for that moment when your eyes are open to see Him, when you crawl broken into His arms, when you are finally willing to trade heartbeats.
“Can you feel it beating?”