Comments Off on Needles

After 18 months of saturation news coverage of the pandemic, the televised images have become predictable.

We see COVID patients lying in ICU beds.  Exhausted nurses.  Vials of vaccine rolling off pharmaceutical assembly lines.  Running tallies of the sick and dying.  Exasperated politicians.  Protesters chanting at workplaces and school board meetings.   

Then there are the needles – seemingly endless clips of hypodermic needles penetrating bare flesh.

It’s possible that even reading that last sentence, or catching sight of the image above, has spiked your blood pressure.  If so, you may be one of the millions of people who suffer from trypanophobia – the fear of needles. 

A trypanophobe may experience anything from mild anxiety (cringing at the very thought of getting a shot) to symptoms that seriously affect one’s quality of life.  When told they will have to undergo a procedure that involves needles, a hypodermic-fearing person may become dizzy, have panic attacks, faint, or even go running out the door of the doctor’s or dentist’s office. 

If you’re a trypanophobe, wouldn’t it be great to have a guarantee that for the rest of your life someone else will be standing by to take injections on your behalf?

There’s an old story about a rabbi who visits a member of his congregation in the hospital.  The patient is in bad shape.  He details his latest medical prognosis and the rabbi sighs, “Well, it could be worse.”  Then the man reveals that he recently entrusted his life savings to a friend at an investment firm.  But the friend mishandled the money, and now the patient’s retirement portfolio looks bleak.  The rabbi says, “Of course, it could be worse.”  Finally, the man groans that his wife is so angry and disillusioned that she’s threatening to leave him.  “Yes, but it could be worse,” says the rabbi.

At this point the suffering man loses it.  “Rabbi, please tell me, how in the world could things possibly be worse?”   

The rabbi thinks for a moment and replies, “Well, it could have happened to me.” 

Jesus, confronted by the world’s overwhelming burden of pain, suffering, and fear, essentially said, “Let it happen to me.”  That’s the bedrock meaning of his vicarious death.

There are some things in life that no one else can do for you.

No one else could experience the specific drama of your birth.  And one day you will need to face the drama of your own death, and everything that follows.  Along the way, it’s your call as to who is in control of your life.  You get to decide whether or not you’ll be brave.  No one else can step in and determine whether you’ll pursue mediocrity or excellence, corruption or character.  Here we can add that if you hope to receive the best medical care the 21st century has to offer, you’ll have to face (as best you can) whatever degree of trypanophobia you have, and receive the jabs of a few needles.  No one can make those decisions or take those shots for you. 

But there’s one thing that can be eternally off your plate.

You can agree with Jesus that it’s a very good thing that he personally absorbed the penalty for all your spiritual failures.

That’s a reason to give thanks day after day after day.

And if you’re facing some medical anxieties this fall? 

Be thankful that you’ll never go through the Valley of the Shadow alone – even if there’s a hypodermic needle waiting somewhere in the wings.