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STRESSIN’ THE STRESS TEST

Okay, I am going to sacrifice any semblance of dignity and self-respect and share a funny story with you about something that happened to me this week. Now to see the humor in this, you are going to have to picture it in your mind – and let me warn you, it’s not a pretty picture! It is a funny one, though – or at least I hope so, because if not, I’m confessing this on the worldwide Web for all the world to see for nothing! I can easily laugh at myself, but if everyone else is laughing, too, it had better be worth it!
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So on with the story… I had to go in for some tests this week and among them was a stress test for my heart. I wasn’t happy about it, and, in fact, it had hung over my head for weeks. I’d been through it before and knew what to expect. First, they inject some radioactive stuff into your vein so you glow in the dark. (Okay, I’m kidding about the glow-in-the-dark part. It is really so they can take pictures of your heart.) Then you have to lie perfectly still on a hard, narrow table for at least fifteen minutes while a camera circles your body and takes pictures of your heart in “resting mode.” After that comes the treadmill, and then more pictures once you’ve got the old ticker really pumping. There’s some waiting time involved and a couple other little things, and altogether it takes about four hours.
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First thing I notice is that there are four other women there for the same thing and they’re all in their seventies and eighties. I’m fifty-seven. At this point I am feeling so o-o-o-old. They call me first and I enter the inner sanctum. “Lie down on the table, put your hands over your head, and we’re going to swaddle you so you can’t move. Okay, ready? We’re starting right now! You must lie still and oh, by the way — don’t even take a deep breath!” The camera starts moving, and of course, the first thing I want to do, the first thing I simply must do, is take a deep breath! I manage to restrain myself, but it is on my mind the whole time. Am I breathing too deeply? Should I breathe at all? Don’t think I can hold my breath for fifteen minutes so I concentrate on short little shallow breaths and then worry about hyper-ventilating. I finally quit worrying about how I am breathing because now I have a worse problem. My ear is tickling. Then my nose itches. There’s a spot on my forehead that itches, too and my foot is going to sleep. It’s driving me crazy, but of course, I dare not move so I suffer through the last eternal five minutes. Finally a timer goes off and I think it’s got to be over, but what?! The technician is chatting on the phone. Get off the phone, lady, and get me out of here!
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I finally stagger out to the waiting room and all four old ladies look at me expectantly and in unison say, “Well?” I just laugh and start telling them about the breathing and tickles and itches. Before I know it, they are calling me back for the dreaded treadmill portion of the test. This is what I’ve really worried about, and for weeks I’d been telling myself, Cindy, you’d better get on the treadmill here at home and get in shape before that stress test! But of course, in my typical procrastinator fashion, I hadn’t, and day after day I’d sat with the computer on my lap. Now here I was, about to face the consequences! They hook me up to a bunch of electrodes, and take my blood pressure, and the first thing I see is that my blood pressure is already high and the test hasn’t even begun yet! White coat syndrome, I’m sure, because it’s been okay normally.
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The treadmill starts. It begins at a fairly easy pace, but it’s programmed to ramp up to a higher speed and sharper incline every three minutes. “Make sure you give us a one minute warning before you quit,” they emphasize, “so that we can give you another dose of this nuclear drug (can’t remember what it’s called) before you stop.” Okay, so far so good. The first three minutes aren’t too bad. Then it shifts into gear. I’m seriously hiking now at a really brisk clip. I might have been okay, except that one of the technicians wants to take my blood pressure again and she’s got me hanging on by one hand while she fumbles around trying to turn the little screw on the blood pressure cuff. It’s turned too tightly and they finally have to go in search of a man to get it turned. In the meantime the other technician is on my other side trying to undo the tape on the IV in the hand that is desperately clinging to the bar on the treadmill. I am so distracted by all this and with just trying to keep up with that doggone conveyor belt, that I suddenly realize the next speed-up is about to begin and it is going to have me running and I know I can’t do that for even one more minute!
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“Time! Time!” I call out in panic.
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“I need 83 more seconds!” the doctor says.
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“I’ll try,” I gasp. Just then the treadmill speeds up. I am running for my life. The technician finally gets the blood pressure she wants and mercifully I can grab the bar with both hands, but I know I am on the verge of disaster.
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“Thirty more seconds!”
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“I can’t! I can’t!” That is hard for me to admit out loud. I seldom back down from a challenge but I know – I can’t!
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“You have to!” the doctor says. “Someone get behind her and push!”
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So, picture this — for the next thirty seconds I am in the humiliating position of having the petite technician standing behind the treadmill with her hands on my derrière, giving me the push I need! It actually helps, and somehow I survive the test. My pride may be in tatters, but my sense of humor is still intact because all day long I burst into laughter whenever that mental picture pops into my mind.
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Sometimes all we need is a little push. I don’t know if it is my stubborn, pioneer-stock determination or my sinful self-pride that won’t allow me to appear foolish or old or less-than-perfect (which, of course, I am but I don’t want other people to know that!), but it is really difficult for me to confess that I cannot do something on my own or to ask for help. Like the two-year-old who insists, “No! I do it!” I’ll grit my teeth and dig in my heels and struggle on. This can be a problem when your husband is a problem-solver like mine is. There are times when I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “No! I want to figure it out on my own! I can do it myself!”
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There comes a time, though, when we all come to the end of ourselves and we have to admit we can’t. In this case I had reached my physical limitations, but sometimes we’ve reached the end of our rope emotionally or spiritually and we just have to confess I need help. My pride caused me to feel humiliated that I needed that little extra push, and I would have loved to say, “No, no! I’ll do it!” but in all honesty, I was actually grateful and pleasantly surprised that it made all the difference between success and failure.
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We do not walk this journey of life alone. God, in His great wisdom and love, has given us help along the way. From the very beginning He saw that we needed help, and He provided it. Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (NLT) That first helper was a spouse, but then came parents, siblings, other family, and friends. Parents are to provide instruction, teaching, and encouragement. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Proverbs 22:6 reminds us to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 27:9 encourages us with “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.”
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Finally, Christ established the Church, and among the great blessings of that fellowship are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are admonished over and over in the New Testament to help one another physically, emotionally and spiritually. Romans 12 tells us to “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love… Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (vs. 10, 13, 15) Galatians 6 goes on to say, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (vs. 2, 9-10) Hebrews 10:24, 25 says “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…” I Thessalonians 5: 11, 14 tells us to “comfort yourselves together, and edify one another…encourage the fainthearted, support the weak…”
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Most comforting of all, He promises us His help when we call upon Him! Philippians 4:13 reminds us that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” He offers strength, rest, and encouragement in Him. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31) “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) “…always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
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Let’s face it – for some of us it is easier to be the pusher — the one who encourages and helps and, gives and uplifts. We don’t want to be the pushee, dependent on others and admitting our weaknesses. If the Lord sees that we need all this help and provides it for us, however, then we must see that we would be foolish to not acknowledge it ourselves, swallow our pride and accept it with grateful hearts. We must understand, also, that when we refuse help that is freely and lovingly offered, we are robbing someone else of the blessing of giving and ministering. There is an old saying, No man is an island. We need one another to give and receive that extra little push from time to time.
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I’ve been thinking of that treadmill downstairs. I really do need to get back on and get in better shape for my trip to Ecuador in less than four months. The high altitude of the Andes Mountains, walking through the Inca ruins and out in the countryside – I need to get in shape! I’ll definitely get on the treadmill again – tomorrow!