My first thought was that it was pretty much over: my speaking, coaching and writing would come to a screeching halt!
My wife Susan and I were in Seattle (February 24-27, 2017) on a ministry trip. It happened Saturday afternoon while I was getting some time with one of the leaders at Downtown Cornerstone, the church that had invited me to invest in some of their leaders and to preach on Sunday. Little did I know at the moment that the rest of Saturday and Sunday was going to look very different than we had planned.
As this leader and I were wrapping up our time, I was going to pray for him and suddenly realized I couldn’t remember his name. I was clearly foggy in my brain. As we parted and I made my way to the elevator with my room keycard in hand, I didn’t remember what floor we were on or the room number. Clearly something was not right in my head. I went to the desk, showed my ID and they told me what room it was.
Upon entering our hotel room, I shared with Susan that something was wrong. Friends came to the hotel and drove us to the ER at Virginia Mason. The questions came. Do you know what year this is? NO. Do you know what week or day of the week this is? NO. Do you know your phone number or address? NO. What the heck is happening to me? My mind was just blank. Did I just have a stroke or a blood clot in my brain? Was this the end of the line for me?
They ran all kinds of tests and took more blood than I wished to give them. They did an MRI and a CT scan. Everything came back normal. Then came the diagnosis. You have what is called “Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)” (I’m very glad it’s not “Permanent Global Amnesia!)
I thought to myself: never heard of it. Maybe they just made that up to make me feel a bit better. More information: It usually lasts 12-48 hours, then returns to normal. I had my own questions. What causes TGA? Can I get it again? “We are not sure what causes it, and the chances of it happening again are not likely. I remained in the hospital that night. While I was supposed to be sleeping (lots of luck with that!) I was googling TGA and didn’t learn much other than that there is more the doctors don’t know than that they do know about it. Thankfully, it resolved overnight.
I had ten hours or so of the TGA experience--scary to say the least. But I’m back and telling people that God shut down my “computer” and rebooted it with new software and a new Intel Chip, or else I would not be able to write as I am at this moment. My mind, believe it or not, seems to me to be better than it was before!
There are a lot of thoughts and ideas that I have been processing, but let me share just two of them.
1. Gratitude to God
I’m sure we’ve heard it said that you don’t appreciate something until you loose it or it’s taken away from you. While in the middle of my ten hours of TGA I began to understand how much I relied on and needed my brain and mind to work well. How could I possibly continue to coach, write, conduct seminars, consult and make a contribution as an elder at my church if I can’t even remember how old I am or what day of the week it is? I am profoundly grateful for the mind the Lord has given me and grateful that what I experienced was transient. But I also realize that at some point I could have permanent amnesia as some do; or get hit with something else which takes me out of the game. After all none of us is going to live forever. It’s not a matter of if, but when, which leads me to my second point.
2. Sovereignty of God
A few years ago Pastor Mike Coppersmith (with whom I worked at Our Savior’s Community Church in Palm Springs for ten years) gave me Job 23:13, 14 in The Message: “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him? He does what he wants, when he wants. He will complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.”
He is in complete control of all the details of my life; TGA and anything else he allows to come my way. I can honestly say that while lying in the hospital bed, I was ready for whatever was going to happen. He has been my shepherd these 57 years as a Christian and has never failed or disappointed me. I was prepared to call it over and live with what I had for the rest of my life without kicking, screaming and arguing with God. In his grace it was “transient,” but who knows what next week or next month will bring. Jesus, Jesus I am resting in the joy of who you are. Amen…and Amen!