“Where is Immanuel When I am Choking?” is the question my husband and I had to address with our son the other night. We were finishing dinner when something intensely frightening happened. My husband and I had just finished eating, and our sons were finishing the last of their meal. I stood up from the table to take my dishes to the sink. My husband stepped out of the room, and within a matter of moments I returned and saw my youngest son, Andrew (our 7-year-old) with his hands at his throat. His face was bright red.
I immediately knew he was choking and could not breathe. My stomach dropped, and adrenaline surged as I yelled for my husband, who flew into the room. I tried hitting Andrew firmly on the back—to no avail. Chris quickly started the Heimlich maneuver on him. Much to my relief, the food that was lodged in his throat dislodged. He was able to breathe again, and I began to take some deep breaths myself. My son started sobbing and shaking uncontrollably as he nestled into my lap.
Matthew (our 9-year-old) was sitting across the table watching this happen. He looked wide-eyed and frightened. Chris drew Matthew into his lap while I held Andrew. Chris suggested we talk to Jesus about what had happened and where Jesus was right now. As Chris started praying and inviting Jesus into our time, Andrew’s sobs slowed a bit, and the shaking became less intense. Chris asked us all to remember times when Jesus was with us and reminded Andrew of his favorite snuggly, secure feeling Andrew has had lately each time he asks what Jesus wants Andrew to know. (To read more about guiding children to interact with Immanuel read: “Mommy, how do I know if it’s Jesus?”) As Andrew thought about those interactions with Jesus, I felt him relax against me, and his tears calmed.
As we all reflected on our moments of interacting with Jesus, we felt some peace settle over the room. I invited the boys to ask Jesus where He was when Andrew was choking. I could feel Andrew tense up again, and neither of the boys had any clarity about where Jesus was. When I invited Andrew to think about how he felt when he was choking, he said, “No, that’s scary; I don’t want to think about it!”
I encouraged Andrew to return to the snuggly, secure feelings, and from there, to think about the time when he was choking. As we went back and forth between the two feelings, that of Jesus’ nearness and feeling snuggly and secure, and that of the choking moment that felt scary and like Jesus was far away, Andrew started to relax even as he thought about the choking moment. Pretty soon, Andrew reported that the choking feeling didn’t feel so scary anymore, and he was able to feel snuggly still and secure even when thinking about the choking incident.
We checked in with Matthew, and he was also feeling peaceful after inviting Jesus into the moment. What is interesting here is that neither of the boys were aware of a specific thought or image where Jesus was with them in the moment of fear and distress; however, after reflecting on the time Jesus was with them (historically), they both were able to feel the same “Immanuel-peace” in the midst of the recent frightening moment.
Chris and I checked in with each other and discovered we had the same thought when asking where Jesus was in this scary situation. Both of us felt like Jesus brought me back into the room at just the right moment so that I could be there to help Andrew. Time was of the essence in this situation, and we felt peaceful knowing Immanuel was guiding in this whole ordeal.
By the end of our 8-10 minute prayer time, both boys were laughing and joking with each other. The tears and sobbing had stopped. Smiles and life returned to the room. My sons were now feeling peaceful and ready to finish their meal. All of us felt comforted by this time of interacting with each other and with Immanuel. We were grateful for Jesus’ presence and the subtle yet profound intervention. I am deeply thankful that what started as a traumatic event turned into an opportunity to connect with Jesus—and the result was peace.
Do you have moments in your life where you lack some of Immanuel’s peace? These are moments that still “sting,” and you may feel fear, anxiety or uncertainty just thinking about them. When we are unsettled about something, it can become an opportunity to be anchored in God’s presence and peace. I invite you to consider reflecting on sweet moments you felt like Jesus was with you, notice how this feels, then ask Immanuel to bring His peace into the situations where you feel peace has been missing.
You may need a friend to pray with you. The key in this process is to start with the awareness of God’s presence before moving onto the areas where peace is lacking. I encourage you to pursue the following resources to learn more about the process of interacting with Immanuel: The Share Immanuel booklet (offers detailed instructions on how to walk yourself or others through the sequence), the books Joyful Journey, and Passing The Peace, and materials by Dr. Karl Lehman, especially his book, The Immanuel Approach For Emotional Healing And For Life.