As I slid into the MRI cylinder, I remember thinking, This isn’t going to be fun. The tube shaped machine was excruciatingly narrow, with the sloping walls just inches from my face. I had recently dislocated my shoulder and it was time to find out how much damage had been done. The kind technician explained the machine would reveal any damage in the muscles and surrounding tissue and that it was critical I remained perfectly still every moment of the procedure. Then he explained what was to come: three sessions of imaging, each lasting about 20 minutes. It would be loud, so I needed to put the earphones on. Flashes of light were normal. If I felt panicky, I had a button I could press to let him know I needed to come out, but that would stop the machine so we’d have to start all over again if I pushed it.
The first session hadn’t even begun yet and I was already contemplating the possibility of pressing that button. I clutched it with both hands—like a desperate woman holding on to her last ounce of sanity. Knowing that movement was forbidden gave me a deep desire to wiggle something—anything!—for no reason at all. I could feel the walls closing in on my face. I could hear my own breath. The clicking and thumping of the machine was getting louder, the flashes of light more jarring. All of a sudden I felt panic. I’m stuck inside this crazy shrinking tube. What if the button doesn’t work? What if I push it and no one is there to get me out? What if I can’t get enough air in here? What if, what if, what if? I could feel my thoughts getting ready to board the crazy train.
Just when I thought I couldn’t endure another minute, the first session ended and I heard the technician’s friendly voice, “How are you doing in there, kiddo?” In addition to the slight thrill of being called kiddo (it’s been years since I’ve been called anything but ma’am), I felt intense relief. He hadn’t left. He was just outside my room, watching through the window just as he had promised. I wasn’t alone. With his next instructions, he let me know—even though it didn’t feel like it!—that everything was normal and under control. I felt a ridiculous urge to hug his neck.
God with Us
I’ve learned that fear can be like this in my life. It can feel so horribly isolating, like I’m totally alone, trying to maintain control all by myself. In those moments I have often wondered where God is. Does he know what’s happening? Does he even care? Why isn’t he doing anything? It was comforting for my MRI technician to explain what was coming and the purposefulness behind each part of the procedure. But that rarely happens with scary situations in our lives. Circumstances hit us out of the blue and take our breath away, leaving us to wonder why and if there is any purpose to it at all.
These are the moments when I have to separate what I feel from what I know to be true. I can’t see God with my earthly eyes, but I can feel him whisper to my heart. He promises he will never leave me. He promises to hold my hand. He whispers that he knows I am afraid, and he assures me he will stick by my side, not leaving for a moment.
Where is God? He’s not just watching my fear from a next-door room through a little window, but he is right there in my fear, right smack in the middle of my panicky thoughts, with his calming presence and everlasting faithfulness. But I have to will myself to feel him, to hear him above the clicking and flashing and pounding of the circumstances. He whispers that he understands I want him to fix it and fix it now. And he whispers that he has a plan, a purpose, and that he is moving on my behalf, even though I can’t see it. He knows I want to push the panic button, but he gently lays his hand on mine and lets me know I don’t need to. He’s got it all under control. Be still just a little while longer kiddo; it’s going to be okay.
In the next article, we’ll be talking about why mothering isn't for the faint of heart.