“I can’t breathe!” The sound of my half-yell echoed in the narrow chamber. Did I really just yell at the technician? For the first time I questioned whether I could do this.
Arming myself with the Scripture, “All things are possible with God,” I had arrived at the hospital determined not to worry. But now, in this tiny airless space, I thought I would come out of my skin if I couldn’t escape.
“I can turn on a fan if you’d like.” The technician’s calm voice grated like razor-sharp nails on a chalkboard.
“There’s no air!” The scream in my head came out as a desperate croak.
“Do you need to take a break?”
His calm manner only increased my stress. “Yesss,” I hissed at him. I did not need to be handled, I needed to get out!
Having a touch of claustrophobia, I expected the MRI to be a challenge. The information I found online said as many as 25 percent of MRI patients are unable to complete the procedure because of the overwhelming sense of being trapped.
Now I found myself amazed at my initial willingness to allow the technician to fasten my head down to a bench, put a web-like mask over my face, and slide me head first into a narrow tube. The tube completely surrounded me from the top of my head to somewhere below the knee. It felt like a coffin.
Five minutes later, I was agreeing to go back into that coffin. I had no choice if I wanted to get the medical care my doctor recommended.
I focused on the details the technician decided to provide this time. I would be in the tube for 45 minutes and halfway through he would come and inject dye into my veins. After my initial panic, he now provided a communication ball for me to squeeze if I needed to get out.
The pressure of the anxiety roared in my ears. I could not do this alone. Jesus is right here, I reminded myself. Focus on Him. In that confined space, I sensed him in the very molecules of the air separating me from the face mask, and I felt the beginnings of peace. I found the peace that surpasses all understanding.
If I had been able to stay focused on Jesus, I think I would have been able to complete the MRI. However, the MRI technician’s failure to respond to my question a few minutes later distracted me. After a dozen attempts at making contact, what started out as a reasonable, “Hello, I have a question,” ended with the frantic demand, “Let me out of here!”
I left the hospital that day without asking the technician to explain why it took so long for him to respond. It didn’t matter to me as I had no intention of having any future contact. Later, I wondered how many ongoing relationships I may have limited in the same way.
When someone fails us, is it fair to not tell them? I suspect this particular technician had no idea how many ways he failed me. He did ask if I used the communication ball so now he knew it needed to be repaired. But I don’t think he realized how many times I called out to him. If the microphone didn’t work, I failed to give him the feedback that would get an important piece of equipment repaired.
If we don’t speak the truth with love, (see Ephesians 4:15) and tell our loved ones when they let us down, our relationships do not have the opportunity to be repaired. The coworker who spends too much time on personal calls will never change until we admit to our frustration with the heavier workload. The casual friend will never become the friend we need unless we confess it seems like she only calls when she needs something. And no husband can meet his wife’s need for companionship if she never tells him how important a weekly date night is to her.
Just as the MRI tech is unlikely to improve because of my unwillingness to confront, so too will our friends miss out on all that God has for them if we fail to be direct and tell them what we need. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT) tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Don’t miss the opportunity to be the iron in your loved one’s life.