Click the media player below to hear Ed read his story.
I haven’t always had the best of success with medical procedures. There was the time I went in for a root canal. Memorable. After the dentist had ruined his special drill bit – he seemed really proud of that particular bit – he told me that my tooth was unusually hard and I was going to need to go to an endodontist to finish the job.
“What happens if I don’t go to a end-ditto-donatist?” I asked.
“We’ll,” he said, looking wistfully at his mangled bit, “then you’ll have a sort of ticking time bomb in that tooth that could explode into horrible pain at any moment.”
I was already in horrible pain, so I figured I’d leave that sleeping dog lie. That was ten years ago. Maybe my luck isn’t so bad after all.
Except the time I gave blood at the Bloodmobile.
I used to attend a weekly prayer breakfast hosted by a local chapter of the Christian Businessmen’s Committee. Already, the story seems odd to my memory since I am neither a businessman nor the type of guy that gets up for an early breakfast. The only prayer I usually offer up before noon is, “Even so Jesus, come quickly.” The rapture would make it less likely that I’d need to get up and start any given day. Nevertheless, there I was at The Mill Restaurant with a bunch of chipper morning people to eat pancakes and talk about God. I felt grown up and Christian-y, albeit groggy.
After breakfast and prayers for this and that, I left the meeting and walked out into the beautiful sunshine of an Ohio fall day. And there it was. The Bloodmobile. Was it a premonition or just a random synapse firing that made me think of the old commercials for the Roach Motel? “Blood donors go in, but they don’t come out.” Haha. Funny.
I knew exactly what a Christian-y grown up does on a day like this when presented with an opportunity to serve humanity. He raps on the door and says, “Hey! Let me in! I want to save a life by donating some blood! Oh, lucky day!” It seemed like such a good idea.
The driver, a large, considerably less excited man than I, opened the door and waved me in. Inside, besides him and me, there were a couple of nurses and a few patients at various stages of the bloodletting process. They all seemed to be doing fine. I was ushered down the narrow aisle to a cramped station at the back of the bus where they test a tiny bit of your blood for iron before they hook you up to the five gallon bag they use to collect your fluids. They pricked my finger and put a drop of blood into a solution. I don’t remember if the droplet sank or floated, but whatever it did, it showed the nurse that my blood was good to go. Yep. We got a live one here, girls. Hook him up!
Next thing I knew, I was reclining comfortably in one of the gurneys that were mounted to the inside walls of the bus. I was feeling fine at this point, but the next several steps lead me down a dark path of horror to what I now can only call, “The Desperate Plea.”
Step One: When the nurse prepped my arm and inserted the needle, it hurt. I mean it REALLY hurt! I had given blood before, but I never experienced anything like this awful burning sensation. Something was wrong with the way that needle went in and my arm was immediately on fire. Now, when a pretty nurse asks a man if everything is ok – especially if there are three or four other people on the bus that seem to be having no trouble at all – then the man replies, “Yes. I’m fine” as he turns to wipe away a tear. I was not fine. After two or three minutes, I could bear it no more, so I flagged down the nurse and said I thought the needle might not be in properly. She inspected it by wiggling it around and told me that sometimes it hurts for a minute or two, but that the pain usually goes away. The pain was making the minutes seem like hours, but I took her word for it and said, “Oh, OK. I’ll just wait it out then.” Ow.
Step Two: For reasons I can’t explain, I got to thinking about the whole process of giving blood. I thought about the way some people get freaked out by it. I thought to myself that I am not bothered by it and that I could probably even stare right at the needle and watch the blood going out of my body through the little tube and into the bag. So… still in pain from the awkward needle, I decided to look right at my arm where the gig was going down. Big mistake. You see, I have a bit of an anxiety disorder that sometimes makes me feel panicky. I have advice for you if you have any sort of anxiety disorder. Do NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to test your bravery by staring directly at the large knitting needle sticking out of your body while in a bus with strangers! I immediately felt a wave of panic flow over me. My heart began racing and I got sweaty. And even though I was reclining, I felt like I might pass out. I quickly looked out the bus window and tried in vain to go to some happy place in my mind.
Step Three: Once the bag of blood was shiny tight with pressure (my heart really was pounding) the nurse came back and removed the needle. What sweet relief! I must have looked kind of pale though, because she asked me again if I was doing alright. “Yes. I’m fine” I lied again. I sat up on the edge of the gurney and tried to collect myself a bit and I did begin to calm down. Whew. I made it. They ushered me to the front of the bus near the driver who was reading a newspaper. There was a bench up there and they had me sit down to eat some cookies and have a bit of orange juice. I drank the juice and ate a couple of cookies, but then I started to feel faint again, and this time, I knew I was about to pass out. I did the worst thing I could have done – I stood up. I called out to the nurse and said, “I don’t feel very…”
The next thing I knew, I was being held up in the narrow aisle way of the bus by the nurse. She was strong, but I am fat. Gravity was winning. We were doing a sort of dance with me reeling to and fro and her calling for the bus driver to help her. Now, the driver and the nurse were wrestling with me. I was completely out of my mind because I was upright, half passed out, with a loss of blood from the donation. My mind went into some crazy dark place and I was suddenly convinced that these people were trying to kill me. I don’t mean that figuratively. I actually believed that these strange people were going to kill me, so I cried out at the top of my lungs,
“DEAR JESUS! YOU’VE GOT TO HELP ME!!”
I will never forget the look on the nurse’s face at that moment. It was a mix of compassion and amusement. She said, “Oh, sweetie! It’s OK” as they finally got me back down onto the gurney. The blood returned to my brain and I slowly came back into my right mind. They put a wet washcloth on my forehead and left me to recover my health and my pride. My health returned 100% and my pride came back to about 2%. How embarrassing!
I said to the nurse, “I guess it’s not very good for business if people outside the bus hear people inside screaming out to their God for help.” She laughed and assured me that she’d seen many people pass out before. She didn’t say that people had called out to Jesus before, but maybe that was implied.
All of this reminds of the story when Jesus fell asleep in the boat. You know that one, right? It’s in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke 8:22-25 records it like this:
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked them, “Where is your faith”? I mean, seriously, these guys knew what a storm on that lake could do to a boat like theirs. They were certainly in more real danger than I was when I was just giving blood. Or were they? They were with Jesus. The disciples were not going to perish at that time simply because it was not time for Jesus to perish. I believe Jesus was able to be at peace and sleep because He knew that God was in charge of the time of His death. No one has more trust in God’s providence than Jesus, God’s Son.
So here we all are a couple of thousand years later, in a boat, so to speak, with Jesus. If we are walking with God and trying to do His will, we can have the same sort of trust that Christ had which allowed Him to rest. If we are with Jesus, then WE WILL NOT PERSIH until it is God’s appointed time for us to do so. We can focus on the work He has for us. We can even find rest and peace enough to catch a nap during a storm.
This is easier said than done, but we can get better at it. One way to strengthen our trust in God is to meditate on that mental image of Christ asleep in the boat. Take a moment to think of it. See Him there resting as the boat rocked on the waves. We can do it, too.
God is in control.
He always has been.
He always will be.