Award-winning Christian singer Matt Hammitt, formerly of the band Sanctus Real, has released a new film that gives viewers a glimpse into his son’s chronic illness and how it has impacted their family, emotionally and spiritually.
The feature-length documentary "Bowen's Heart" follows the life of Hammitt's son, Bowen, through his third open-heart surgery. Produced by Rhyme & Reason Films, “Bowen’s Heart” offers a glimpse into the pain the family endures as they put their trust in God to carry them through.
Since Bowen's birth, the Hammitts have been vocal about the fact that their son was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which means that the left side of his heart was underdeveloped. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,025 babies in the United States are born with Congenital Heart Defects each year. Studies show that infants diagnosed with Bowen’s condition often die within the first two weeks of their life.
"I love when the Bible says that 'We overcome by the power of our testimony, and the blood of the Lamb.' It's the work of Christ … that overcomes adversity or the darkness in our lives. But also, there is a power to our words and our testimony, and telling what God has done that is undeniable. So we hope that as we share this testimony, it does continue to reach people,” Hammitt declared in an interview with The Christian Post.
Bowen, now 12 years old, continues to defy the odds and is an active child who loves swimming and rock wall climbing. He's also following in his father's footsteps and enjoys singing and songwriting.
Hammitt and his wife, Sarah, hope their story will encourage other parents who are also going through medical struggles in their family. Among the concerns the Hammitts lived through was the fear that their son could suffer a heart attack or stroke at any time, which was depicted in the film.
"One of the things that I mentioned in the film, that I think is really important, is that it's easy to say that God is good when things go the way that we had planned. But what about when things don't go the way that we have planned?” Hammitt asked.
“Sometimes things don't go the way that we prayed for, and when we experience that pain of not getting the miracle that we had hoped for or prayed for, and working through what that feeling of suffering does inside of us when we give it to Christ, as hard as it is, it does produce character and perseverance inside of us that produces hope inside of us.”
He continued, "But that pain serves as a contrast in our lives that when we do get the miracle, we become so grateful for what God has done. We have a deeper sense of gratitude toward those blessings.”
Other families who've gone through hypoplastic left heart syndrome have been an encouragement to the Hammitt family. And they've made a point of being grateful and not taking the time they have with Bowen for granted.
"There have been times where you're kind of in survival mode. You're trying to take in those moments, but whatever that fear is that you have or uncertainty, can rob you of being in the moment,” Hammitt said of the constant state he and his wife find themselves in. “There's actually a song that I wrote for Bowen, called 'All of Me,' that I released around the time that he was born. The opening line is, 'Afraid to love something that could break/ Could I move on if he was torn away?'”
Before Bowen was born, Hammitt said he felt God speak to him revealing that he was building a wall between him and his son because he was unwilling to fully accept, embrace, or love Bowen with his whole heart out of fear. The father did not want his heart to be broken too.
" I remember feeling that [God] was saying to me, 'Is that the way that I loved you, when my heart was broken? Did I build a wall between us, did I withhold my love?' No, God gave everything for us! He tore the walls down and gave his very own son, He sacrificed to be close to us even though His heart would be broken as well.”
"Only by God's grace can we continue to say yes in those hard,” Hammitt added.
“Bowen’s Heart” gives a real insight into the Hammitt family’s struggle to accept the hardships that affected their family, their marriage and the other kids leading up to Bowen’s third surgery.
"Those vulnerable moments are what connects us with people,” Hammitt told CP. “It's not the facade. It's not the Instagram highlight reel. It's the real stuff that forges bonds between us and God and us and others. So that vulnerability is powerful so we wanted to make sure we protected that vulnerability and made sure it was there in the film.”
Bowen has stepped into his father's footsteps and now writes his own music. Before his third surgery, the young boy asked his father if he could release an album, something that is documented in the film. Bowen’s music is now available to stream.
For many years, Hammitt was the frontman of the Christain band Sanctus Real but in 2015 he decided to take a step back and be more present with his family.
"When I wrote the song, 'Lead Me' I wrote it out of my own personal story of me wanting to be a more present husband and father. The irony of the song is that after I wrote it from a very vulnerable, sincere place in my own life... It was the success of the song I wrote about being a more present husband and father actually took me away from home even more,” Hammitt revealed.
He noted that it really put him in a position to practice what he preached despite singing in stadium-packed arenas.
"It really convicted me, as I sang it, that I was not living out what my hopes and intentions were and my calling was and in that [I] knew very clearly in my heart and spirit, that it was time for me to, as I say, sing it less and live it more,” he explained. “So that was really the reason I stepped down from the band was just to get more margin in my life and space and time to be home, and have community not only with my family, but in our church and have that support that we really need and that sanity that we really needed, as a family to do life together.
"It's been a blessing every step of the way, as hard as it was to make that decision. There were a lot of fears when I stepped away, but God has put Himself faithful to provide for us in so many ways, and give us great opportunities to minister on new platforms with new people and new ministries, and speak into people's lives through that message now of Lead Me.
Hammitt has really grown his platform now on family, and marriage ministry. So much of what he does now, he does with his family and it has greatly impacted people.
The musician said he believed God allowed Bowen’s heart condition to ultimately “bring glory” to God.
"There is a mystery around why God allows certain things, or why He allows suffering in the world,” Hammitt commented. “I used to wrestle so hard with these questions, I still do, but probably one of the most beautiful things that has happened in my heart is embracing the mystery and letting it be a mystery to me of why God would operate in a certain way.”
He advised others: "When you look at the fact that God can use evil and suffering in the world, to ultimately bring about the gifts of His glory, and to reveal His ultimate plan, those are such deep things to ponder upon. In the end, I love that proverb that says, 'We toss the dice, but He determines how it lands.' It's not our job to always understand. But it's our job to be able to say, 'You are God, I'm not and I trust you.'”
Hammitt said he now tries to live in the space of not understanding but trusting God anyway.
Bowen is now doing much better than before.
"The good news is that after this third surgery that he had, when he was eight, that's represented in the film, he's really been thriving, and every checkup that we've had, the doctors feel really good about where he's at, for his condition,” Hammitt testified.
The loving father said Bowen’s condition is something that they'll have to navigate and continue to pray on as a family for the rest of his life.
The film can be watched at BowensHeart.com
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: email@example.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic