Six years ago today, I was late. If you’d looked at the clock on the wall, you’d probably argue I was early, but I’m a type-A mental gymnast. Adjusting for weekend traffic, accidents/construction, and the terrifying “unforeseen obstacles,” allowing two hours to drive from Riverside to Orange, CA, just didn’t seem like enough to guarantee I’d be early for my concert call time. (As Dad always told me growing up “Early is on time, and on time is late.”) So I did the only logical thing: take a selfie with our new kitten and set out to meet Ivan on foot. He was driving back from his own concert in Corona, another neighboring city, to take me to Orange. The rest, as they say, is history. (If you’re new to the blog, you can read the original story about how God spared my life after being hit by a car as a pedestrian here.)
I’ve told a lot of stories about God’s work in our lives over the past six years, but the one I’m going to share today is particularly special to me. Before I woke from my coma in the hospital, neurologists tried to prepare Ivan and my family that there was no way of knowing my cognitive function. Would I be able to think? Converse? Read and write? My mental age was about three years old when I finally woke up, so initial predictions weren’t fantastic. Praise God, I made it all the way to “teenager” by the time I was discharged.
Obviously, I only learned about these events much later – when I was “old” enough to process them. What I remember most from that period was God gradually revealing himself to me in ways that made sense to my mental age at the time.
It began with books. There was an inviting stack of books near the left side of my bed, including my Bible, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (I’d been reading that with Ivan), and Homer’s Iliad (Okay, so that had been hidden in my desk at work). Ivan read the Bible to me every night, but I never asked for any of my other books even though I usually read voraciously.
One morning the nurse came in, pushing her big grey cart like usual. But the cart read MEDS on the side by my face. It didn’t say that before! I’d noticed there were large letters stenciled on its side, but they looked like nonsense and I was too drugged to care. This discovery snapped me alert. I looked around my room – sure enough, the jumbled black and red letters just above the door spelled “EXIT.” Praise God, I could read again.
And then my brain drifted off to sleep again and I forgot to tell anyone about this miracle moment for several years.
By the time I was transferred from a critical care hospital to a neurological rehab hospital, my reading ability was up to par, but my brain tired out so quickly that I could barely make it through half a page before I got sleepy. Even when Ivan read the Bible to me, I could only pay attention for a couple of minutes before my mind wandered off. But now I was “old” enough to suspect that there was more to following Christ than reading/listening to the Bible. Wasn’t I supposed to pray or something? There I drew a blank. I knew what prayer was – visitors or my family prayed over me several times a day. I didn’t know how to do it on my own.
“Hello, God,” I ventured one morning soon after I’d transferred to the rehab hospital. That was it. I didn’t know what else to say. Next, I tried copying the kinds of things people said when they were praying with me:
“Dear God, thank you for this day…this food…this visit…”
Some of them asked for things as well:
“Please let this appointment go well…help the pain to go away…let Grace go home soon.”
Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, God restored my mind enough to see that these prayers were little more than painting by numbers. What now? I tried making up my own, but my mind still wandered off within seconds of closing my eyes. I’m not sure if someone suggested it to me, or if the thought was just God’s grace, but one day a couple of weeks later I finally remembered the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Weren’t psalms supposed to be prayers to God, just in poetry? I hoped that learning to pray by copying psalms wouldn’t be quite so “paint by numbers” because each psalm is also part of the inspired Word of God. That makes them perfect models for prayer!
This is the natural climax of my story, so this is the place where I have to shake my head and let out a long sigh of defeat because I don’t remember what happens next. I wish I remembered my first extemporaneous prayer, or when exactly I resumed a “normal” prayer life, but my neurological trauma has erased those memories. Nevertheless, the larger point is that I learned to pray again by studying how the Bible actually depicts us communicating with God. Many of the psalms are distressed, even depressed. Some are overwhelmingly joyful. Psalm 119 re-taught me to love the very Word of God itself. Praise God, I can pray with my eyes closed and/or for long periods of time now. But I don’t think anything can change the sweetness of opening the Psalms and using one as inspiration for personal prayer. That is a blessing I’ve treasured over the past six years, and hope can encourage you as well.