by J. Randal Matheny
A week ago Saturday a gentleman died after an emergency surgery at Rhode Island Hospital to stop hemorrhaging on the brain.
A nurse had omitted some necessary information on the chart, and instead of checking the exams, Dr. Frederick Harrington relied on his memory and began operating–on the wrong side of the patient’s brain. When he caught his error, he switched sides, but the surgery team’s rush to treat the patient caused them to abandon the proper procedures, according to one hospital official.
The news report didn’t give the doctor’s age, only the patient’s. For all that, we tend to think that memory problems occur more frequently among the aged. But faulty memory afflicts us all. Especially in spiritual subjects.
The Passover was a God-given meal for the Jews, in order to remind them of their rescue from Egypt. Moses told them,
“… for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast, symbolic of affliction, for you came out of Egypt hurriedly. You must do this so you will remember for the rest of your life the day you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:3 NET).
When during a Passover meal Jesus established the supper for his disciples, he also recognized the need for us to be reminded, because of our faulty memory.
To a church which was forgetting the reason for the Lord’s supper, the apostle Paul wrote,
“… the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this every time you drink it, in remembrance of me'” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-25).
In the NET version of the Bible the words “remember” and “remind” are used 144 times. Evidently, we need to work on our spiritual memory.
What should we remember? That we cannot save ourselves. That the way back to God’s side goes exclusively through Jesus. That we must die to self in order to live with and for him. That he will come suddenly for his people, and in the meantime we need to be prepared and busy in his kingdom.
The worst of it is that this wasn’t the first time Dr. Harrington had operated on the wrong side of a patient’s brain. Last year, he did the same thing in another hospital.
And in Rhode Island Hospital, this was the third surgical error of this very type in six years.
But before we condemn the doctors for their faulty memories, let’s see if we aren’t doing the same in the kingdom of God.
Because a faulty memory, as much for Christians as for surgeons, is fatal.
Read this Lord’s Supper meditation given in a Brazilian church: Forgetting can be fatal.