Spiritual Claustrophobia

IMG_0630 longview morning

I learned something about myself yesterday. When the doctor set up the MRI appointment she asked if I was claustrophobic. I said no and I thought it was an accurate answer. Apparently I lied. During the procedure I ran through my entire repertoire of meditation, positive visualization, prayer for others and calming songs in my head… Looks like I’m due for an upgrade. I tried not to think about the reason for being there, and I did endure to the end (including re-takes, because breathing too hard apparently jiggles your head -even when it is stuck in a cage) although I didn’t exactly hold on to peace.

The tiny logical side of my brain (the part that required state-of-the-art machinery to find) could scrounge up some attitude of gratitude that a mobile unit with such fine diagnostic equipment was available in our town, and that I live in a country where having pre-existing (Is that like time travel?) condition and (technically) being unemployed didn’t put the cost of medical insurance out of reach.

But logic alone didn’t cut it when I was so squished in that tube that I had cleavage up to my chin (or maybe that’s just where I folded) and my head was held rigidly in a cage with warm sponges on either side of my face like an visiting auntie’s unwelcome embrace.

I sang “You are My Hiding Place” (in my head) and I thought about being safe in a cocoon, and even imagined Jesus holding me tightly in  a loving hug. But honestly, it wasn’t long before I felt like yelling, “Jesus! Let go –now !”

I was only about 15 minutes into a 45 minute procedure at this point. I squeezed my eyes shut and decided to visualize the opposite instead. Wide open fields, with lots of sky. I pictured myself flinging my arms wide and dancing. Instead of restriction I imagined latitude, expansion, immensity –freedom.

Hey! I made it. (Although the technician noted, as he pulled me out, “You didn’t like that much, did you?”)

I prayed for him a lot while I was in there. The Bible says to pray for those who spitefully use you. He’ll probably get a new car.


I am learning that when I am in a tight spot without good solutions (quite literally this time) it is often because the Lord wants to give me an upgrade so I can better understand who he is and who I am and what he has for me -by showing me what’s missing. I’m learning to say, “Well, that sucks. What do you want to do instead, Lord?”

I was in no danger in the MRI machine. There was fresh air blowing in and the technician hovered only a few feet away. I could hear him on an intercom so I could talk to him and demand to be removed if it came to that. He told me instant removal is not an unusual request.

So, processing this experience later, I asked the Lord what that was all about. The old song, There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, started playing in my head.

Then the thought came: The reason I had to be under such restriction was because all this technology was focusing on finding what is wrong with me.

It hit me. Sometimes we need to focus on a problem so we can be aware of it and take steps to fix it — and it’s not a comfortable experience. But sometimes we can become so introspective, so perfectionist, so merciless, so restricted by the traditional constructs of this-is-the-way-it-is-done that we can’t move. We have no elbow room, no vision, no freedom. Sometimes religious practices that major on striving to be better by finding and rooting out all impurities end up feeling like being in an MRI machine week after week, month after month, year after year, and the end result is that we are more conscious of our sin than we are of the freedom we have in Christ. We become dependent on an institution or a mediator to point out our sin so we can do a mea culpa self-flagellating kind of repentance that keeps us restricted to a tiny sphere of influence. Without a vision beyond the confines of our own making, we, at best, merely endure.

Abba seems to be talking to me about grace a lot lately. I think I’ve got it, but then he says, “There is more! There is more, more, more than you have ever imagined! There is wideness in My mercy. I give you latitude.”

With both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3 The Message paraphrase))

The first thing I did when I was pulled out of that machine was to stretch my arms and go outside where I could see the sky. Freedom feels wonderful.


I was going through photos looking for something else last night, when this one caught my eye. I took it near a place called Longview.


9 thoughts on “Spiritual Claustrophobia

  1. Good job at self-analysis and analoguing:) I quite enjoyed it:). Have been in that steely womb a few times myself. Not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but mercifully, not a re-birthing experience, either!

    I hope that what they find is elucidating, benign and fixable. Or, better yet, they find nothing at all!!!! Tada! Just one perfect you, without surgical tools forgotten from previous operations; no cysts, blockages or any unwanted and unneeded parts. Just Good News or fixable news. Sometimes, it’s stuff we have to live with, while changing our diet and our habits to boring (argh!).

    I pray for Good News:) I will definitely have a chat with God about this:)

    Much love and Best Wishes, Sweet Lady:)



  2. Nothing like being cooped up in a MRI machine … understand completely as I’m sure countless others do … I had Christian lullabies playing and still took every bit of control not to get me out of there … felt like I was back in there reading your post … but through it all He never left, He saw all, He even heard all that terrible noise, knew our anxieties, knew our wanting to escape … praise God, His control overrode my control and always will. Praying your results were or shall be good.


  3. Forgot to mention the staff and those in the small waiting room outside were blessed whether they knew it or not … I didn’t realize all in the vicinity could hear the music, I thought it was a closed system :-). All glory to God.


    1. I brought my iPod, but I wasn’t given that option. I also arrived at the hospital rushed and flushed because I forgot to tell my husband I needed a ride, so I walked -quickly. I wish I had talked to other people about how they coped, but I was quite unprepared since I didn’t think it would be any smaller than a ct scan.
      Lullabies. Good idea.


  4. I pray you will receive good news as the result of this test. They are never fun and it sounds like yours was extra “challenging”. I was just in the ER last week and had to have a CT scan. I laughed as I read what you did (same as me)….quoting scripture, singing, praying, thinking of the ocean and wide open spaces…. I was very glad, though, that this time was much easier than the MRIs I’ve had in the past. I thank The Lord that the diagnosis given me was nothing serious… I pray yours will be good news, too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.