Many of you know that a week ago yesterday, Jim had a strange and frightening “episode.” It began with his failure to remember the storyline of a Sherlock episode we had watched the night before (hardly unusual) and ended with an overnight hospital stay and an alphabet soup of tests. Final diagnosis? Transient Global Amnesia. Bottom line? Scariest day of my life ends with the assurance that Jim is healthy as a horse and will completely recover.

Jim wasn’t the only one to get a check-up that day. While his brain was getting poked and prodded by doctors and nurses, my heart was getting a good workup from the Holy Spirit. Nothing like a crisis to test your faith in your espoused theology. Feeling helpless in the face of the unknown taught me, or rather reminded me of, some important lessons that I hope to remember in the little moments of every day life as well as the big moments of crisis.

So here are some of the things I learned through our experience:

1) Remember that we are guaranteed nothing in this world. As I drove Jim to the hospital, I feared for the life of the man who ranks just below Jesus on my list of essentials to my well-being. In between answering his repeating loop of questions, I was pleading with God for his mind to be protected from whatever was happening. While doing so, I thought of all the people who have done the same thing, who have pleaded for protection, for healing, for restoration…only to be denied. Not unheard. Not unanswered. But denied. I never doubted that God was listening, only that He might have a different plan from mine.

I was reminded that my plans are not guaranteed but God’s are absolute. The day I had envisioned—running to the library, exchanging pants at Target, maybe a quick bite at Chick-Fil-A—never existed. But the day God had planned—rushing to the ER, frantically calling family and friends, waiting for answers—that day had been mapped out for all eternity. God’s day was a perfect day. A perfect day for displaying His ultimate will for Jim and for me and for the universe. Easy to say when the day ended on a happy note, but it is as true in grief as in rejoicing. God is our only guarantee.

2) Carefully consider the words you choose; they could be your last. One of the things I clung to during that day was the last conversation Jim and I had before everything went loopy. I was telling him how much I loved him and how thankful I was for having him in my life. Of course, now he doesn’t remember that I said all those nice things but I do. I kept thinking of how many times he walked out the door to a hurried good-bye or some nagging comment about not forgetting the milk. I know that if something happened to him or me on one of those less than stellar farewell days, Jim would still know how much I love him. Still, I had peace in knowing that, at least on this day, I had done well. Our words hold great power and we should always use them with care.

3) Maintain a deep appreciation for the community in which you live. The Spiegels are profoundly fortunate in our community. Not only does Jim work in the midst of deeply committed brothers and sisters in Christ, but we are a part of an immensely loving and supportive church body. As if that isn’t enough, we have great neighbors as well as a family that stays close despite the distance of miles. I knew all I had to do was call and bam—the kids would be cared for, emails would be sent, meals would be provided, and, most importantly, prayers would be offered.

While we have certainly been planted in green pastures, I told Jim afterwards that the love and care we received was, in part, a reflection of the love and care he had given. He had cultivated those relationships through time and sacrifice and it came back to us ten-fold. Cultivate your pastures whether they are green or stony. God will bless your efforts.

4) When people ask you to pray for something, no matter how big or small, do it. It would be easy for us to say “Well, Jim’s condition, while scary and disconcerting, was never serious. Those hundreds of prayers on his behalf were wasted on a benign disorder.” Poppycock! Our God, who is not limited by space or time, heard those prayers before the creation of the world. He ordained them for Jim’s benefit and no one will convince me otherwise. So thank you, to all those who lifted our family up. May we have the privilege of doing the same for you one day. God bless and keep you all.

3 Responses to “Lessons from the ER”

  1. Ken Wolgemuth


    As one of your husband Jim’s biggest fans, thank you for sharing your lessons learned through this frightening experience. I so greatly love Jim for his wisdom, ideas, heart and dear friendship, as well as for the incredibly positive way he impacts hundreds of Taylor students every semester. Thank you, Amy for these profound thoughts. I want to put every one into practice. And I love all four of your children too. How did they do through all this? With prayers and respect, Ken Wolgemuth

  2. Ali James


    Amy! I found this post when looking for some wisdom from Jim on why flatulence is funny (would you believe!!), working at CUP I’d remembered my colleague commenting on his article in THINK, and my search was prompted by a video clip a friend posted on facebook… love how God has a way of bringing us round to other information that blesses us, I love what you have written here – warms the heart! Well, be assured of my prayers from the UK then for full recovery for Jim. Having lost my lovely Dad (a retired vicar and rural dean in the Church of England) in December after a few years with Lewy Body Dementia, you hit on some thoughts that just struck a chord. Bless you both, and if you don’t mind I’d like to follow your blog 🙂 Ali James, Thetford, Norfolk, UK (Production Editor, Cambridge University Press)


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