I stepped into the room; the MRI machine filled it with scarcely enough space left for the operator and me. I eyed the circular opening of the apparatus. “Am I going to be okay in there?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” the operator answered, handing me the panic button.
A few minutes later I lay wide-eyed as my upper body glided into the dark machine. It surrounded me, only inches from my face. The farther I moved into the enclosure, the faster my heart raced. Then, I couldn’t breathe. So I did what any sane person would do in that circumstance. I pushed the panic button! The trustworthy operator reversed the process. Out I slid.
“Would you like to try with a cold wash cloth on your face?” the lady asked. But it was too late. The damage was done. My heart raced, my palms were sweaty, and I felt lightheaded. I teetered on the edge of a panic attack.
On the drive home, I chastised myself. After nine years of battling lower back issues, I finally asked my doctor for an MRI. I pleaded my case, and he reluctantly agreed. However I chickened out and still had no answers.
I seriously considered ditching the whole idea and living with the unknown. Instead, I called the doctor’s office. We discussed my options—valium or an open MRI forty-five minutes away. I chose the latter. While I waited for the appointment, I had time—time to stew, and time to repeatedly visualize the small space that had stifled my breath.
Two weeks later I drove to the appointment. Music blared through the speakers in my car as I sang praises to the Lord. I prayed He would comfort me, relax my tense body, and dissipate the fear of another anxiety attack. Then I heard these lyrics: Your breath fills up my lungs. It was Christy Nockels’ voice, but God’s answer to my prayer. He reassured me that He would carry me through the MRI. He would put the breath in my lungs.
Pneuma, a Greek word, means both breath and Spirit. Therefore, breath and Spirit are interconnected. The air we breathe sustains life. And God gives us each breath. Genesis 2:7 reveals this fact. God breathed life into Adam. It is further demonstrated in Romans 8:11 when Paul explains, “And if the Spirit (pneuma) of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit (pneuma), who lives in you.” His Spirit lives in me. His breath sustains me.
We, in and of ourselves, cannot compel our lungs to pump air in and out. At the very most we can only stop our breathing momentarily. Although even in this act, our body has a built-in defense mechanism. If we hold our breath too long, we will pass out, and our body will involuntarily begin pumping life-sustaining air back into our lungs.
These facts became reality for me the day I had the open MRI. Just the vastness of the room eased my conscience. More than that, as I slid into this bigger contraption (with a cold wash cloth on my face), God whispered into my ear, “I am the breath in your lungs.” I rested comfortably and confidently, breathing normally.
(Author’s Note: This piece was written a few years ago before having lower back surgery.)