As we drove into town, a man without a helmat on the motorcycle ahead playfully zigzagged his lane like a race car warming its tires, slowly approaching the red light. Then he stretched both hands in the air.
“Look at that guy!” I pointed out.
“What is he doing?” my wife laughed.
Still rolling, the rider stretched back on his bike and laid down. We were speechless.
The light changed green. He sped up and continued down the road.
A minute later we crested the next hill and saw a motorcycle on its side at the end of 30-foot skid marks. The rider paced the median, holding his head. Another man ran across the street, fisting a first aid kit from his truck. We pulled over and called 911. Traffic stopped.
How did he crash? we wondered. And then thought back sixty seconds, “This is the guy!!” Was he drunk? Was he goofing around? Whatever’s to blame, he lost control.
I fear losing control. Therapy helped me confront this fear that sometimes clams me up, keeps others at a distance, cages me from what-could-possibly-happen up ahead in life. My controlling triggers come from relational pain, of abuse, of being abandoned. I want to prevent that again, so I put up police tape with that says, “Caution, Do Not Cross,” hoping life will heed my warnings.
Our motorcyclist traded risk for control. But control is not always an option within our powers to keep.
At the hospital last week, I needed blood tests. I warned the nurses of my vagal-response tendencies. And as is customary, nurses josh with me. “You’ll be fine,” and “This will be so quick” and then they tell me a extreme story of a patient last week and how I won’t be like that. They fail to consider I could possibly be worse.
Then they drew the blood, and I think they drew my soul. I traced with my mind all the techniques I knew that trigger these responses, but I lacked skills against this formidable opponent. “I’m starting to lose it,” I said.
In the chair, I slumped as the nurse continued. “Almost done,” she said. Thirty seconds passed and she was still working on the four vials. “Hang on a little longer,” she coached. I needed to lay down, but she was till drawing. “Okay, done!”
A head nurse came in. I wanted to move to the bed three feet away but the head nurse refused, fearing they couldn’t carry me. I thought life was nearly over. I had never been forced to take a vagal attack upright. I felt gunshot at night in wartime. Voices hover, giving orders. The enemy is nigh, no time to lay down and recover.
I’ve never passed out to these responses, even when they carted me to the emergency room last November for a similar situation. I wanted to pass out. I wanted to be in control enough to pass out, to fade away from the suffering, the empty head, the bloodless face. I wanted to advocate for myself and lunge at the bed. But fully conscious, I had no power.
I think most people feel this way at times, some more than others— victims of circumstance. If not a tsunami, it’s a lost job, debt, chronic illness, terminal diseases of loved ones, hunger. When out of control, when the fates seem bent against us, we’re tempted to lift our fists toward heaven. That’s when we lift our fits, isn’t it, when our powers have ended?
Peter felt the pang of losing control when Jesus predicted his death in John 21, “When you were young, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, others will will dress you and take you where you do not want to go.” Nobody likes those predictions of lost control. Which is probably why Peter responded, “But what about that guy?” pointing at John.
And Jesus’ reply to Peter touches us all where the visible road appears to dead end, when we are struck will helplessness, when all grows dark, when our fist is tempted to shake at the sky, a hand is available with the promise that all is not lost, even in death itself.
Jesus said to Peter, “If that guy were to go on living and living and having a cheery life until the very day of my return at the end of days, what is that to you? Follow me.”
This is between you and me, kid. It’s going to be okay for you in the end because we’re in this together. Put one foot in front of the other, next to mine.
I hope wisdom tells that motorcyclist to wear a helmet next time and keep his hands on the bars. And I hope wisdom tells me to give my blood lying down. And the next time I feel in danger, in the dark, out of control, may I remember Jesus’ words. All can’t be so bad when the King of all things is leading the way.
Image credit: willnotdiet.blogspot.com/2011/03/dr.html