God helped me face my phobia of needles today. Please don’t scoff. My needle phobia is infamous in my family. The last time I turned up to the doctor’s for a blood test, I’d twice been denied the treatment before they finally stuck me on Valium and gave me a cream to numb my arm. I’d been determined to do better this time. I’d concocted self-glorifying dreams about how it would all happen. I’d envisaged that the nurse would give me my travel vaccinations today while I was placidly reading the 23rd Psalm with an angelic look on my face, after which she’d be moved to wonder where on earth I found such profound peace, having received the report from the receptionist that I was phobic of needles. Needless to say, that wasn’t how it worked out at all.
I’d already disgraced myself before I’d got to the point of calling on God to help me today. Far from reclining serenely onto the bed to receive the vaccinations, I was shaking and crying and cringing and dizzy and wheezing, and, to my shame, stammering an excuse that last time they gave me drugs. As the nurse got the first of the two jabs ready it was no consolation that she’d called another nurse into the room to hold my hand (or to hold me down?), nor was it any consolation to talk about how much I was looking forwards to going on holiday, or where I was going to go, or what I’d be doing there. As well-meaning as the lady staring into my eyes seemed to be, she couldn’t comfort me, and nor could my future plans, and nor could the reassurance that it was all going to be okay, or the knowledge that this ordeal might save me from disease and possibly death one day. There was nothing I knew I could trust in the nurse’s kindly eyes. You can sometimes kid yourself about where your heart’s mainstay and consolation lies; when you’re quite at ease, you can pretend and you can doubt. But a phobic fear is the fear of death. In times of phobic panic you have that fear in you; you surrender the control of your rational faculties, and if your heart knows where the source of its comfort lies it screams out for it, and that’s the point where you can’t kid yourself any more. As the panic escalated today I shut both of the nurses out along with their well-meant words and cried, repeatedly, ‘My God, help me. My Jesus, help me’. God gave me the strength to sit tight and take the needle, and then ask the nurse for the next one, and then the next one after that – until she informed me that there weren’t any more and that I was free to go. I can’t believe how much easier my Lord made it for me at the moment when I called on him. All I had to do was call and the experience became one in which I could take the first jab and then say “Next, please”. To be honest, part of me was even slightly disappointed when it was over. I was enjoying watching him conquer me.
I was taken aback when the nurse actually asked me questions my about my faith afterwards. The Lord may have conquered me, but I had been completely self-consumed with my fear, and when the fear had subsided, I was troubled with concerns about my credibility. I knew that the witness hadn’t been good, and I probably looked like the religious hypocrite that I had proven myself to be. I was still feeling shaky and overcome and struggling for words, and I was always aware that the way I’d behaved would in no way have conveyed to her anything positive about the Lord I purport to trust. I nonetheless gave her a brief account of how the Lord drew me to him as she’d requested and I tried to give a reason for my hope, but even here I blew it. I was concerned about the credibility I might have had as a blubbering, quivering shipwreck of a Christian witness at the prospect of a mere vaccination. Because of this I made deliberate reference to the Oxbridge education of my mother in Christ and, once the conversation had moved on from faith matters to my business in Manchester, I dropped the name of my own alma mater also. Though I might have believed at the time that it was merely to dispel the myth that Christians are unthinking and stupid that I had no doubt continued to perpetrate by my actions, as far as the disclosure of my own credentials were concerned it was also partially an attempt to salvage my own face after humiliating myself. I don’t like to imagine the further harm that might have done to my witness. God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things of the world to shame the strong; the things that are not, to shame things that are. The cross, which is the power of God to those who are being saved, is foolishness to those who are perishing. Why didn’t I trust and believe in that Word and let myself suffer to be thought foolish and weak, rather than exalting myself in arrogance?
I’m extremely grateful that God moved my heart to cry out to him today, and that he gave me strength when I cried out, even though I disgraced myself in front of the nurses and spoke in a self-serving way about myself. In spite of my own shoddy conduct, he has given me great assurance of faith today, and it has made me very glad. Anything I tried to use to glorify myself, God ordained to humiliate me. It mortifies me, and I rejoice in that. God glorified himself by the strength he gave me when I helplessly called on him, and let my vainglorious pretention be a witness against my vainglorious heart.