Faith, Pandemic and.... Breathing

We take breathing for granted.
Most of the time, we don’t think about the process of breathing in, breathing out, of our lungs expanding and contracting, the complex process involved in something we simply do. We never had to learn to breathe. It’s always been in us, a part of what makes us human, a mark of God’s creativity in the profound intricacies of our bodies.
In the beginning, the breath of God hovered over the waters, waiting with anticipation for that initial explosion of light. The Spirit was there at the start, the Ruach, wind of God, breathing creation into glorious life. Breath defines our inmost beings, responding to the breath of God in God’s creative power in us.
In the Covid-19 pandemic the process of breathing has been something much more at the forefront of many people’s minds. For many who catch the virus, breathing becomes all too evident for them, in the pain and tightness they experience in their lungs. It’s sometimes described as feeling like a fire in their chest, and many struggle with both short and long-term breathlessness as a result. Breathing has suddenly become a great big burden.
I’ve known this burden for all of my life. I’m often all too aware of what my lungs are doing and the pain that results from years of infections and scarring, living with a rare and degenerative lung disease. When I am in an exacerbation, I wish that I could breathe without realising I was breathing. I wish that I could breathe without great stabs of pain and waves of breathlessness that leave me gasping and exhausted.
During this pandemic, I have been shielding for a good proportion of the year. I’m one of the extremely clinically vulnerable, one who ‘may become seriously ill if I catch Covid’. I’ve been isolating even within my own home, and went over four months without any physical contact. It was tough. Now I’m shielding again, though not quite so extremely this time, with the advice changed a little. One of the most difficult things about it is the feeling of panic whenever I start to feel poorly — which, unfortunately, is fairly often due to my disease. Each time I’m wondering if this is It. If this is the virus and if it might make me very ill or worse. It’s not something I was expecting, just ten months ago. It’s not something any of us were expecting.
But we keep on breathing, and God keeps on breathing over us, breathing life and peace and release from fear and bondage. God doesn’t always breathe physical healing, but longs to touch us with his Spirit, with Ruach, his loving breath, his consolation when things are tough, his peace when life is intolerable. When we reach out to God, we encounter this great mystery — a God amidst our ruins.
During shielding I wrote a book about encountering God in the darkness, because I found that my darkness was closing in so much. I wanted to write about how we can look beyond human wisdom and discover the treasures God gives us in the darkest places, to encourage others to dig for this treasure when everything seems to be falling down around them. I wonder if you, too, today, feel as though you are surrounded in darkness, or know someone who is struggling and want to help? Perhaps you lead a church and feel helpless, mid-lockdown, unsure as to how to draw people closer to God and to peace? I’d like to offer just a few reflections on what has helped me and what could help others in these times.
  • Take time to breathe: We often feel as though we should fill up every moment, as though we should be productive, useful, doing. But sometimes it is okay to admit that we simply need to be.
  • Learn to breathe more deeply: I don’t mean physically (though breathing exercises certainly help me). Instead, let’s learn more of God’s ways, let’s breathe God in by taking more time with God, by sitting at his feet and listening. I sometimes pray a little ‘breath’ prayer — as I breathe in, I pray Come, Holy Spirit, and as I breathe out, I intentionally let go of all the stuff racing through my mind.
  • Allow God to breathe over you: God’s Spirit is the breath of life. Invite the Spirit, the Ruach of God, to breathe into your deepest and wildest places. Be open to the Spirit’s work in you — even when it’s not easy, and even when it’s not tangible.
  • Breathe in more fresh air: Again, not only physically (but do! It makes such a difference). Breathe in the fresh air of God’s word, of praise and worship, of online church and podcasts. More than ever we have a wealth of great teaching and worship material at our fingertips, and taking time to soak this in is invaluable. When I am couched in darkness, putting on some worship music can be soothing to my soul and lift me up as I look outside of myself and lift my eyes to a God who loves me more than I can imagine.
  • Breathe in time with others: When we are hurting, taking our pain to others in raw honesty can be consoling and encouraging. When our friends are hurting, we can be part of God’s work in their consolation by taking time with them, breathing in time, hearing their heartbeat and responding with the love of God. At the moment it’s so much more difficult, but we have all these online tools at our disposal. Let’s remember to include those who don’t have these tools — even a phone call can make a difference.
  • Breathe in your freedom: Christ has set us free, by dying for us and rising in glory and power. And that same power lives in us, continually setting us free from the chains of pain and sin and the world’s pressures upon us. Let’s remember, today, that we are children of liberty, people who live in the great upside-down kingdom of God, where those who are least, those who are weakest, are strong in the love and grace of God.
Liz Carter
Liz Carter is an author and poet who lives with chronic illness and writes about finding God in the ruins. Her first book, Catching Contentment, explores how to find peace when life hurts, and her new book, Treasure in Dark Places, is a collection of honest poetry and re-imaginings of encounters with Jesus which draws us closer to the treasures God gives within the hurting.

Posted: 17/11/2020 08:00:00 by You Belong Filed under: blogger, breathing, chronic, disability, faith, guest, illness, pandemic

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