3 – On Breadcrumbs & Ebenezers

I found the old axiom that your life flashes before your eyes when faced with a near death experience to be somewhat accurate in the wake of the stroke. Cognitive researchers believe that this phenomenon—called life review experience (LRE)—occurs because the part of the brain that stores memories may be the last system to shut down before a person’s final breath. Beyond the many well-documented accounts of such occurrences, the theory is further supported by the lack of LRE reports in patients whose near death encounters include extreme brain trauma. Perhaps that explains why it was not until the days following the stroke, as the swelling and bleeding began to subside, that my mind began scrolling through all of my most vivid recollections, a slow remembering of the most important events that had shaped me and brought me to this point.

But over the days, as the scenes played out before me, it seemed like more than just mental gymnastics—more than my brain testing the limits of its post-trauma cognitive capabilities. I became increasingly aware of the Spirit’s leading in these moments. The Lord wanted me to recall all he had done throughout my life. My flashbacks were all memories of his goodness and faithfulness to me. If viewed individually, they might not seem like much, and perhaps they could be dismissed as trivial or even coincidental. But when taken as a whole, it was evident (to me anyway) that each event was a providential stepping stone, placed in my path by unseen hands and leading to an ultimate destination beyond anything this world could ever offer. My life review created in me a transcendent sense of awe and gratitude. 

It was near the conclusion of this time of remembrance when the Lord spoke of wanting me to share my testimony. He said that I was to use these “breadcrumbs and ebenezers,” the memories I had just traversed, as my guide.

I find it interesting that God used the term “breadcrumbs” to describe the way he leads us on his path, alluding to a fairy tale about children lost in the woods. In life, most of us are often so busy searching for our own next steps, hoping to blaze our own trail, that few of us realize that, if we only look, there are breadcrumbs right there in front of us, set out for us by someone ahead who knows the way. And for those of us who know to look, often we are uncertain as we advance that these guided steps are headed somewhere we truly want to go. We are at times unsure and frightened because it feels as though we are being led through an untamed, untouched wilderness with no definite end in sight. It is only in looking back that we can clearly see that our journey was following a well-worn path all along, and we find that none who traveled this way were ever disappointed at the finish. 

“Ebenezer” is a word used in the Old Testament meaning “Stone of Help.” Samuel raised the stone as a monument commemorating the day the Lord helped the Israelites gain victory over the Philistines at Mizpah. Such markers were often used as a way to memorialize significant places and times of deliverance at the hand of God. 

As I surveyed my life, it was clear that the Lord had always laid before me breadcrumbs to guide my way forward and regular ebenezers that I could look back on and know for certain that he is faithful and at work. My plan for this blog is to vacillate between stories of life and ministry prior to the stroke and the experiences following that life changing event, highlighting the more formative moments in which God moved in ways that strengthened my faith. It is my hope that in sharing some of these stories those who know the Lord might recognize more deeply his work in their own lives, finding cause to rejoice in where they have been and hope in where they are being led; and for those who have not yet discovered faith in Christ or have been unsure about putting their trust in God, I pray that my journey will help inspire a desire to seek him and find the abundant life that can only be found in him.

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”

Psalm 32:8

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