By Jim Tune
There’s been an explosive fascination with all things zombie in pop culture. The AMC series The Walking Dead has enjoyed stunning commercial success, so I wasn’t surprised to see a flood of big-screen zombie productions hitting local theaters. Most of them focus solely on gore and body counts.
The 2013 zombie film Warm Bodies was unique for this weird film genre: It’s a zombie love story. I remember watching it on a transatlantic flight in the middle of the night, and I was actually pleasantly surprised.
The film’s tagline more or less summarizes the plot: “He’s still dead, but he’s getting warmer!” It’s the story of a zombie whose heart is jump-started to life when he sees a beautiful woman—a live one. He ends up saving her, and they are forced to hole up inside his bachelor pad while the zombie hordes move on by.
She begins to see the flickers of life in him just as he starts to feel them himself. True love blossoms. And that love brings life, along with an unlikely cure for the zombie population at large. It’s a unique spin on the whole Beauty and the Beast thing—if you can overlook some savage butchery and brain-eating bloodiness.
We love our stories of heart renewal, especially during the Christmas season. Scrooge undergoes a buoyant and joyous heart transplant. The bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling Grinch is afflicted with a heart that was “two sizes too small.” Amazingly, through the power of Christmas, the Grinch receives a renovation of the heart. The beleaguered residents of Whoville testified that “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”
These classic films are viewed again and again—we never seem to tire of heart renewal. I think that’s because we all see ourselves in these stories.
Heart transplants are a marvel of modern medicine. Dr. Bill Frist Sr. performed more than 150 heart transplants as a thoracic surgeon. Frist refers to the miraculous moment when a transplanted heart beats in a new body for the first time as a “mystery.”
The heart is much more than a physical pump. It doesn’t just beat 100,000 times per day (about 3 billion times in a lifetime). It doesn’t just circulate 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels day in and day out. Studies suggest the heart has a mind of its own. I know mine does! Scientists have discovered the heart secretes its own brainlike hormones and has cellular memory.
Maybe that’s the mystery Dr. Frist struggles to describe. A heart transplant isn’t just physical, it’s metaphysical. Medical studies and interviews with people who have received heart transplants suggest they don’t just receive a new heart, they also receive whole new sensory responses, cravings, and habits.
The prophet recorded this truth: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). That’s true of my heart and every heart that ever beat. The good news is, just as there was hope for Scrooge and the Grinch, there is also hope for us. God promises the possibility of a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
There’s a reason why we tell the same stories and watch the same hope-laden movies every Christmas season. Hope has a name: Jesus. You need no longer march amid the ranks of the walking dead. If you will have him, Christ will put his heart in you!