In August 2012, my wife and I had just graduated college and I immediately began a two-year internship at our local church. During the first year of the internship, I started a Missional Community in the “hard part of town” and began making plans to plant a church in Los Angeles County. When the internship concluded, my wife and I took a vacation to LA. It was amazing. We flew back home excited what God might do.
I felt physically drained for two straight weeks following the trip but chalked it up to being out of shape or a common cold. On June 17, 2015 my wife and I decided to visit an urgent care facility for some medication so we could get on with our lives. To our surprise, the urgent care staff advised us to go to the ER immediately and the next thing I knew, I was waking up from a coma ten weeks later.
Turns out, I was in heart failure when I went to the ER, flown to a large hospital in St. Louis, and over the next ten weeks I had ten major surgeries, around seventy-five defibrillator uses, and as a last-ditch effort, specialists implanted a Left Ventricular Assistive Device (LVAD) to help my weak heart pump blood. When I woke-up I was unable to speak, eat, or move without violently shaking from my full-body atrophy. Doctors had no idea what extent of damage was also done to my brain, as a result of the trauma I endured.
I was soon diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in my cerebellum. This was not the plan.
My First New Heart
On February 26, 2009, God saved me. I was at a college ministry event when I heard the gospel of Jesus preached, heard a stranger’s testimony, and sung a song that I found myself able to sing with sincerity and joy (How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin). Sitting in an uncomfortable lecture hall seat, I was overwhelmed. I was broken by my sin. I was overwhelmed that God would die for me, a rotten sinner and selfish human being. I was also drawn to the good news of Jesus and I knew the only answer in the world was Jesus.
This experience is what Ezekiel prophesied thousands of years ago:
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
My “heart of stone” was removed and I was given a “heart of flesh.” God took away my heart of rebellion and my love of all things self-centred, and he gave me a heart of obedience and a desire to live for all things of God.
My Second New Heart
On May 22, 2017 I received the call that there was a match. Stunned and emotional, I got my stuff together and was admitted into the hospital. It took two days to match everything, but on May 24, 2017 I received a heart transplant.
God gave me a new heart in 2009. And then God gave a new heart, for a second time in 2017.
I am now hard pressed. I desire to be with Christ but while I am alive on Earth, I will live for others’ growth in Christ. I seek to live a life that gives plenty of reasons for God to get glory.
Life did not go according to my plan, but God’s plan did come to pass. His beautiful, painful, and perfect plan was that he would give me a new heart, again. God was not surprised and his plan was not stopped. He is in control and deserves all the glory.
Jacob Luis Gonzales lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife, Ali, and his daughter, Eden Cielo. He has passion for understanding God’s word, loving God’s Church, and preaching the gospel. He previously interned at Karis Church in Columbia, MO and now serves at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. You can find more of his writings at fromgroanstoglory.com or follow him on Twitter at @JacobLGonzales.