Transient Global Amnesia

My husband drove me to the airport last week where I passed through security (with some extra attention due to my artificial leg), found my gate and boarded a plane to visit my daughter, something I have done routinely for several years now. However, one thing wasn’t routine this time: I don’t remember any of it. From a particular point on our half-hour drive to the airport until the plane landed in Pittsburgh four hours later I have virtually no memory of anything that happened. My husband said I was acting strangely. For instance, I packed my travel mug containing the dregs of a just-finished cup of coffee, despite his puzzled inquiries. And I complained of some vertigo, apparently. But I am not a morning person, so I guess it didn’t look that different from my normal 6 a.m. muddle.

The next thing I knew, I woke as from a deep sleep (which may actually have been a deep sleep – I am not sure) as the plane bumped along the tarmac toward the terminal. The hours and stories of those I encountered along my twilight journey are lost, presumably forever. My seatmate seemed in a hurry to exit. A few items like my book and my boarding pass, appeared to be awol, but I found most of them tucked neatly into my backpack under the seat in front of me. My boarding pass was gone, but my id, cash, phone and credit cards were all where they should have been. From the moment I awoke, I was increasingly myself and have felt perfectly fine ever since. It was much like coming out of anesthesia after a minor medical procedure. I would pay a lot of money to have a video of my trip through the airport and onto the plane, because it is a miracle that I got uneventfully to my destination under the circumstances.

My family and I have considered multiple causes for this bizarre occurrence: sleep-walking, reaction to medication, seizure, mini-stroke… but (best of all possibilities), I believe I experienced an episode of Transient Global Amnesia, something I had never even heard of before. It may be related to migraine headaches in some way, and I am a life-long migraine sufferer. According to the Mayo clinic, this rare problem is unlikely to recur or to have any long-term effects.

While it relieves a burden of worry to know that this is a benign condition, my biggest emotion about the whole episode is gratitude. God cares for His helpless ones, and there is no better illustration of that for me. I spend most of my days believing that I am in control, that I can handle the small, easy things in life without resorting to prayer or any other conscious dependence upon God. I spend most of the rest of my time worrying about the ‘big’ things I’m afraid I have to manage. But it is all a trick of this fallen world, an illusion of control we maintain to allay our fears, an unfortunate barrier which keeps us at a distance from our Provider. Are we ever really any more in control of our journey, our well-being or our destination than I was at the airport last week? I think not. I can’t even control my own brain. The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps (Prov. 16:9).

I don’t believe this experience will forever cure all my anxiety or rebellious independence, but I do hope it will serve as a touchstone and a reminder for me when I am tempted to forget that God cares for His helpless ones.

And that includes all of us, all the time.

If you or anyone you know has experienced Transient Global Amnesia, please reply to this post. I would love to hear about it!

Related Content:

Another lesson in control and trust from John Piper.
Scriptures about anxiety and God’s faithfulness by Lesli White.
A prayer about feeling out of control from Scotty Smith.

Lost Boys

Wendy: “But where do you live mostly now?”

Peter: “With the lost boys.”

“Who are they?”

“They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain.”

“What fun it must be!”

“Yes,” said cunning Peter, “but we are rather lonely.” 

JM Barrie, whose dialog is quoted above, was the author of Peter Pan, the stage play, and several other works that contained references to the lost boys. These stories hint at a darker tale than we have gleaned from the Disney films. Barrie’s first lost boy was his older brother, who died as a child, leaving Barrie to compete for his mother’s attention with a sibling who would never grow up. The rowdy crew of animal-boys described in Peter Pan were actually the childless author’s surrogate children who lost their own parents and eventually became Barrie’s wards. Two of them also died in the Neverland of adolescence. Barrie’s lost boys inhabit a child’s limbo where they will never mature, never find love and where they will never really live.

This is uncomfortably close to the situation for boys who are leaving the church today in droves. Most of them would say they have quit the world of make-believe faith for the reality of science and culture, but they have chosen a half-life, based on their own brand of faith, where they will find it hard to mature, difficult to know love and impossible to hope for eternal life. I suppose we had best consult Chaos Theory to know why this phenomenon is occurring, since the variables must be nearly infinite, but I would like to consider a few of them.

Superficial Heroes. Pick up a few children’s books from 150 years ago, and you will see that kids today are given little concept of philosophy, honor or purpose by comparison with generations past. Media heroes today are often violent, simplistic caricatures who save only themselves and achieve only pleasure. Such are our sports heroes, financial titans and video stars. This is an especially glaring lack for boys whose God-given love of adventure and combat can serve a bright purpose or an easy, empty vanity.

Surrendered Science. Boys mapped the known world and launched the first rockets, invented the telescope and split the atom. There is a reason beyond discrimination (which has also played a large role) for their prowess in the field. Boys are better at problem solving and spatial thinking. It’s how they are made. But science today has been conquered virtually unopposed by deists and atheists. Although there are some excellent Christian scientists, they are a small minority, and their influence has been tainted by other Christian voices which spoke disparagingly of things they did not understand. So boys, who still pursue scientific endeavors in greater numbers, are exposed to mentors and teachers who shame their belief in something they cannot quantify.

The Feminine Church. Churches are largely female and becoming more so all the time. There are denominations where more than half the ministers are women, and every denomination is plagued by desultory male attendance. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. But there is something else which has become increasingly feminine about the church: an emphasis on the softer side of God. Whether it’s the unbiblical grace of universalism or the true grace of a sinner’s salvation, you will hear more about grace in the church today than ever in history. Salvation grace is real and necessary and good, but our God is also a powerful and uncompromising warrior-king, capable of great ferocity in service to righteousness (see Revelation 16, for example). His love demands something of us and asks us to count the cost. He is a God who imparts strength, equips leaders, commands attention and makes an impact. This is a man’s God, and He has gone missing from the church.

Barrie’s Lost Boys cannot become real men unless they give up their make-believe world of shallow and selfish pursuits. One might be willing to make that leap of faith if there was a place where real purpose, real adventure, and real love could be found together. That is the place we must make visible, by telling it in our own stories and living it aloud every day. As a last word, I must say that I believe in the sovereignty of God, that neither Satan nor human beings can thwart the Lord’s intentions, that He is not wringing His hands ineffectively over our folly but is continually working in time and events. However, that does not excuse us from doing our very best to make God known and to be most like Him, our intrepid Savior who fought His great enemy and confronted death and to save women and men, girls and boys alike.

Related Material:

Gender Gap in World Religions – Pew Forum
What Men Want from Church – CT Pastors
Another Thought on the Gender Gap – The Gospel Coalition
Great book, good resources for encouraging men and boys here

Dark Thoughts

Dear Christian Counselor,

I have been married for over 35 years, and we have had good times and bad, like everyone else, but last week my husband said one thing to me and it killed me. I have tried with ALL my heart to trust God over the years and I even fail at that. I have had friends that I have known since kindergarten that STILL have a close relationship with God… how do people do that? I admit when I try to read the Bible I do not make it very long because I don’t understand it. I have understood four books in my life. I am making and thinking about doing some very deep and dark art.  I think that if I had God to make me feel the way all these other people have felt, then maybe I wouldn’t have to die to live. So my desperate plea to you…. How does a heart that is dying trust God?

Deep and Dark

Dear Deep and Dark,

First, if you are feeling suicidal, please tell your husband or someone else you trust or a doctor or a counselor. I can guarantee you, because my father committed suicide, that your attempt would wound everyone you know. They would carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t do that to them. It sounds like you are really depressed. Get help. You can get through this. I have.

The short (and possibly not very satisfying) answer to the trust question is that you trust God in the middle of the mess. Trusting God doesn’t mean you suddenly feel better; it means you trust Him anyway. You trust Him in your pain and distress and dark art and deadness of heart. I love that you can pour out your emotions through art, by the way – that’s a great thing to do – it’s another form of prayer. Just practice it in a way that doesn’t hurt you or anyone else so that it IS prayer.

Some people seem to have a simple connection with God that others don’t. I am not one of them. If you add them all up, I have spent many years of anger, doubt and dryness toward God in my life. Even Jesus felt that God had forsaken Him at one point. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that all the stories have a happy ending (Rev. 21:4), and sometimes that’s all we can know – not how or when or how much it will hurt in the meantime. Maybe it brings God more glory and us more reward when we barely hang on than if we had one of those easy relationships we envy in others.

As to books, it is not necessary that you read them. Only in the last few hundred years have people had access to books. There are other ways to learn. I would suggest counseling and/or mentoring. But if you are determined to make headway through reading, try some children’s books. You can read them to actual children, if you like, and learn while you are doing it.

Finally, I want to ask you to forgive your husband. He did not know what he was doing, how deeply he was wounding you when he spoke. He is not God that his words have to control you. Forgiveness does not mean your husband gets away ‘scott free,’ either. If you need to have a conversation with him first, do that, but then trust God to deal with the man for you. That’s called forgiveness, and you may have to keep doing it for a while before it sticks.

I want to repeat what I said at first. Don’t hand your pain to everyone else around you by hurting yourself. Get the help you need. You are loved. You are valuable. It’s still true, even if you don’t believe it. That’s pretty much the definition of trust.