When I was in college, like many VU students, my schedule was packed from morning until midnight (or later) with classes, activities from the abundance of student orgs I was a part of, chapel, friends, and, yes, some studying. It wasn’t uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed because of all that was going on in my life each day. Most days when I would see my campus pastor, Paul Rohde, he would look at me and say… “Breathe.”
Breath is a holy gift. Hebrew Scriptures begin with:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God (Rûach elohim) was hovering over the waters.”
The Hebrew Rûach elohim can be translated in a few ways. Rûach (רוּחַ) has the meanings “wind, spirit, breath,” and elohim can mean “great” as well as “god.” Water often symbolizes chaos. Therefore, “In the beginning…God’s breath hovered over the chaos.” The creation story also reminds us that God gives us the breath of life. That with each breath, the Spirit of God abides with us and gives us life.
I find myself needing this reminder to breathe during this new kind of chaos — to breathe and be centered and grounded. In college the chaos of my daily life was from a busy schedule and running to so many different places. Now I find myself in the chaos that comes from space that seems dark, formless, and even a bit empty. Empty of the people that I love to sit with, talk with, and give hugs to daily. Formless from the mundane structure and rhythm of going into an office, running to the store, taking kids to activities, and the full schedule that gave my days shape. The uncertainty of the days ahead feels like living in a dense dark fog.
Focused breathing is used during things like meditation, contemplative prayer, and yoga. It is used as a way for one to center oneself. For those that live with anxiety one of the main coping techniques is breathing exercises, where you slow down and focus on each breath. Throughout my days now when anxiety in the midst of uncertainty builds, I am trying to pause to breathe. To breathe and be centered in the promise that God’s Spirit is with me — with each of us — in this chaos. To breathe and be reminded that when I can’t focus, when I feel like I am not enough, when I feel weighed down by the chaos around me, that God has given me breath — and for now that is enough. To breathe and be present in the promise that God abides. To breathe and be reminded that the Spirit of God that I breathe connects me to those I can’t be physically with in the breath they breathe.
Breathe in the Spirit of God. Breathe out releasing some of the tension, fear, anxiety, disappointment, anger, grief, and frustration. Breathe in the promise that God is a God of life. Breathe in the promise that the Breath of God is hovering over this chaos and connecting each of us. May this poem from Meta Herrick Carlson help you to breathe and pray, as it has me during this moment.
For Pandemic Panic
Breathe. And feel
The Spirit filling your whole body.
Breathe. And give thanks;
It is a wild gift every single time.
Breathe. And acknowledge
The grief of your plans changing,
The fear of uncertain things
Looming too large to bear alone.
Breathe. And consider
How well Christ knows,
How fiercely God cares.
Breathe. And lift up
Your neighbor more vulnerable still.
Breathe. And believe
We are in this together and
The next right thing is enough
But first remember to
March 25, 2020
A reminder that even during this time of physical distance, Pastor Jim and Deaconess Kristin are available to meet with you virtually. We also continue to gather for Morning Prayer, Sunday Worship, Candlelight, and Celebrate to be connected to one another and center ourselves in God. The links for those services can be found here.