I've done this before with this post about Focus on my Given Me a Thorn blog.
Today I am thinking of the glory of sunrise, pale in comparison with the mental picture I'm about to describe, but the closest to what a camera can actually capture. My daughter asked me the other day about my favorite time of day, and I would have to say early morning now (a total reversal of the time of day I most dreaded, early in stroke recovery).
I have rarely shared the following story with anyone. Never before, online, except for in a private stroke forum, just last night. I share it now, with a measure of trepidation, for I know once my thought are "out there," there will be no way to take them back, reel them in and make them mine alone again. As I told my pastor (when I finally got brave enough to tell even him, just recently), I have been quite shy about all this for the past year.
I tried to share with a select few, early on, and I received a couple of less-than-positive receptions for my thoughts, so I felt it better to keep my experience to myself after that. I have held this knowledge close to my heart, as a personal and valued treasure, and feared other's reactions if I shared it. I feel God saying, now is the time to speak. This is not my timing (I was going to wait until the publication of my of my stroke book), but God is strongly impressing upon my heart His better plan. Since it is really much more about Him than me, I can't stay silent any longer. Today, I share with you, not in sensationalism, but in humility:
When I had my first two, most serious strokes, I could not move, speak, hear, open my eyes, or in any way communicate with the world around me. I knew I was in bad shape, had heard the beginning of the 911 call being placed before I lapsed into unconsciousness, and we have pieced together that the following experience must have taken place just after I was loaded into the ambulance, when EMTs were trying to get any response from me but I could not hear them and was unable to respond at all. (It is possible that it happened anywhere in the next 6 hours I remained unresponsive, or even in the following week when I was technically "councious" but have little to no memory, but to my mind, I place what seemed to be only a sliver of time, a moment, in the ambulance before the ride to the hospital, possibly because I have no memory of the other events. I guess it is rather impossible to place a timeless event within the context of our known limits of time and space!) My body was significantly posturing, I was not expected to make it to the hospital alive, and my situation was terribly fragile and precarious.
I, very vividly, consciously and lucidly, remember "waking up" and thinking through my senses one by one, looking for any response from my body or clue to what was happening to me. I could not feel, move, speak, see or hear anything. In fact, I had no sensation of being connected to my body in any way. I was rational enough to presume I was in an ambulance, for though I could not see, and had no knowledge of the EMTs arrival (other than previously hearing that they were being called), my very first awareness was sensing (not "seeing") the shifting of light when, I presume, the ambulance door shut. I had no other connection with my body but I knew enough of what had just happened (even though I lacked explanation of what had happened and the word "stroke" wasn't even remotely on my radar at the time) to know I was physically in dire straights and that I was likely on some form of life support.
One of the first coherent thoughts, that I would have shouted out as a statement if I could was, "Don't pull the plug! I'm still here." Before even one wave of panic could overtake me, I was filled with such profound peace! I heard music (remember, I was totally deaf, and remained so to anything happening around me) unlike anything I had ever heard before - so beautiful! And while every other memory from the next several weeks remains vague and shadowy, most have slipped away all together, this one is crystal clear and bathed in golden light.
I have always before wondered about and somewhat feared death, but after this near-death experience, I felt cheated and angry that I had survived and was suicidal for about 6 months (I just wanted to hurry up and get to Heaven, now that I had a foretaste) until my husband challenged me that if God wasn't finished with His plan for my life here on earth yet, neither should I be. I still feel great excitement and eagerness for Eternity, but I am much more willing to bide my time here on earth now.
Anyway, after being challenged to find and fulfill God's purpose for my days on earth, it became evident to me that as wonderful as Heaven is (and I already got a sneak peak, that was so wonderful that I am ever-so anxious to find out more!) that Hell must be just as awesome in terror. I promised God that I would spend the days assigned to me to help anyone who would listen to avoid such fate, for I cannot even imagine the horror.
So with that background in mind (I know how like a lunatic my experience must sound), you can see why I'm passionate about my views.
I believe that there is only one God, Jesus Christ. That to believe Him, I must abide by what He says, namely that He alone is God and there is no other, that He is the only way to the Father and that many paths are inviting, but only one leads to eternal life.
I believe that we are all born as sinners, separated from God, and the only remedy to clear us of our guilt, is acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the only sinless man ever to live.
It is not through doing enough (or any) right or good things, but by simple faith that God is who He says He is and did what He said He did. It isn't just about believing the facts, but taking them to heart. If I tell you a chair can hold my weight, I can tell you that all day, but it really means nothing until I exercise that belief by taking my body and actually sitting in that chair to show us both that I believe what I say, that I am willing to act upon what I say is true. It is like that with God too. I can say He exists and maybe even say I'm willing to see the work of His hand in my life, but until the "good works" I do are because of my love for Him, an expression of my adoration and acknowledgement of all He has already given for me, not in effort to earn forgiveness or grace, they mean nothing. As Scripture says, such works are as useless as filthy rags!
OK, getting off my pulpit now. Don't worry, I'm not likely to try and cram these beliefs down anyone's throat, but it is clear exactly where I stand now. I wish you all peace (the intense kind, like I found in that ambulance) as you explore these issues for yourselves. Feel free to leave a comment or email me - jsaake AT yaohoo DOT com - if you want to talk more specifics. I, for sure, am not an expert and don't pretend to have all the answers, but I'm happy to share what I am convinced about and explore questions to keep on learning!
Here are a few videos I posted, mostly songs related to my thoughts surrounding this post. Here are my growing collection of images that semi-capture a tiny bit of my emotions surrounding my memories.
Today I am thankful for the gift of this amazing experience!
Book-in-progress on drawing on the fruit of the Spirit in times of trial: Harvesting Hope from Heartache or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HarvestingHope
Next book-in-progress: 6 strokes at age 39, Stroke of Grace or look on Facebook under "Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake"
Future manuscript in the plans: Given Me a Thorn, the apostle Paul's story as applicable to living with chronic illness, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GivenMeaThorn