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.