Search for God can lead him to you
I went to my doctor’s office expecting a simple steroid shot for my bursitis. But simple quickly became complicated.
As the nurse smeared the injection site with disinfectant and placed a surgical drape over my shoulder, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a plain old shot. This is what the doctor was suddenly calling a “procedure.”
I had questions. “There’s not a chance I might suddenly become buff or start playing amazing baseball, is there?” I asked.
“This should answer your questions,” said the doctor as she began going over the list of things that could possibly go wrong. It was simple things such as nerve damage, infections and twitching.
“Don’t worry,” the doctor said, as I eyed the door, “we’ve never had a problem.”
Easy for her to say. She was on the giving end of the 3-inch needle.
“Do you mind if I sing a hymn?” I asked.
“No, go right ahead,” she nodded.
I began to hum, “Shall We Gather at the River?” but her glare suggested that I change that tune.
A few moments later, as she injected the painkiller, I had a news flash. To be more precise, a hot flash. “I think I’m going to faint.”
“Lie down,” the doctor advised, ” and don’t forget to breathe.”
Breathing didn’t seem to be my problem at the moment; it was my hearing that concerned me. It was beginning to feel impaired, and I had always heard that hearing was the last thing to go before you die.
Then came a muffled question from the nursing assistant. “Do you feel your heart beating faster?”
“I don’t think so,” I whined as I felt her offering her hand. I’d always heard that in a near-death experience, someone will take your hand and walk you through a tunnel toward the light.
“Your pulse is slowing a bit, but don’t worry,” the doctor reported, “I think you’re having a vagal response.”
“What’s a vagal response?” I asked.
I didn’t hear an immediate answer, so I persisted.
“Is that some kind of anaphylactic shock?”
I wanted her to know I knew some medical lingo. Anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening condition where blood pressure becomes too low to sustain life.
It’s the kind of thing that often precipitates near-death experiences. “Lord,” I silently prayed, “if this is going to be a near-death deal, please send me back before my column deadline.”
I was imagining the headline: “Chaplain has near-death experience, reports existence of God.”
It was definitely Pulitzer-Prize stuff; but as I thought about it, I wasn’t sure I was ready for an exclusive with the Holy. So, I nodded to the doctor, “I’m done now.”
Nevertheless, I did learn a few things.
First, I learned that sometimes the best evidence we have of God’s existence is the warm hand of another, which, I’m glad to report, means God will always have a pulse, even when I don’t.
Second, I think maybe we’re not supposed to search for God as much as we’re supposed to be open to letting God find others through us. I was looking for God down that tunnel and, while I didn’t see God, I did see someone who showed compassion. In other words, God showed up and she was wearing scrubs.
The third thing I learned is the definition of a “vagal response.”
“A vagal response,” my doctor explained as she called me back from the proverbial tunnel of white light, “is pretty much like fainting. We’ll have to try this next week. I’ll get you a prescription for Xanax for your anxiety.”
Headline: “Chaplain faints, misses deadline.”