It was late. I was stressed. Anxious. Mentally sprinting through an endless list of things I did not get done that day. A noxious feeling of panic, inadequacy, and despair met me as I looked around my dimly lit, not quite picked-up house. So to avoid looking and feeling, I broke the cardinal rule of anxious insomniacs: I opened my laptop.
Sighing, I clicked through to my email, opened Twitter, and checked Facebook in about three seconds flat. Words, pictures, wisdom in 140 characters or less—it all melted into one circus-like blob, and I knew I should have just gone to bed. But then I saw this video tucked into an email from a friend. The song takes off in a Monday morning frenzy until, as if flipping a switch, Johnny Diaz sings:
Come and rest
At My feet.
But all you really need
Is to just breathe.
In that moment, I was undone. As though my own heart-switch had been flipped, tears rolled down my cheeks as I was reminded of the profound importance of the most basic bodily function. I had been reminded to just breathe.
Function, Not Fluff
Now before alarm bells start ringing in your head, let me clarify that I'm not talking about some kind of hyper-spiritualized, "exhale the negativity, breathe in the positivity." This is not about emptying your mind or even being mindful, as recent trends encourage.
In my stress and anxiousness, in my trying to do it all in my own strength, the song jumped out as a powerful, sweeping reminder that I am physically, mentally, and spiritually dependent on the Lord God for every single thing—right down to the most basic function of being alive—the need to breathe.
Most of us in the Western world, and Americans in particular, foster a fiercely independent spirit. In July in the United States, we took a day to remember the birth of our country, which at its inception could have just as easily been named "Declaration Day" or "United States Day." Instead, we celebrate "Independence Day." So it's no surprise, really, that as Christians we need to be reminded of our utter dependence on God for everything we have. That's why this month I am celebrating "Dependence Day," when I will take the time to remember that every breath I take comes from a sovereign God who is:
- The Giver of Life. Genesis 2:7 reminds us "then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." The very first breath of the very first man was a grace gift from God. Your first breath and mine was nothing less—a gift straight from the Creator who does all things well.
- The Sustainer of Life. We deceive ourselves into thinking that because God has chosen to use people as a means to accomplish His plan on earth that it is He who needs us. Oh, how backward we are! In Acts 17 we read, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives all to mankind life and breath and everything" (vv. 24–25). When I neglect to acknowledge that every breath I take comes from Him, I am building a Babel tower right in the midst of my own home—one that God will destroy for His name's sake.
- The Renewer of Life. "Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones," sings the old African-American spiritual inspired by Ezekiel 37. "Dem bones gonna rise again." It seems odd that we need to be reminded, but have you considered that despite all of the advances in medical technology God has allowed, we haven't figured out how to make dry, dead bones come alive again?
God does this in the spiritual realm all the time! We are born with the dead, dry bones of sin (Ps. 51:5), but by His grace we're redeemed by the breath of life! And His renewing power doesn't end there, as He has also promised bodily resurrection and salvation for His people (Ezek. 37:12) and as adopted daughters for you and for me. "Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD" (Ezek. 37:14).
In my spare time (Ha!) I teach private voice lessons. Guess what we "re-learn" on Day 1, Lesson 1? You guessed it—we learn how to breathe. For the singer, proper breathing technique and support is the foundation upon which we build our ability to perform all of the other functions of singing. Tone quality, diction, expression—all of these things are absolutely useless unless we recognize and acknowledge our need to breathe well. In my walk with the Lord, I've found the same to be true: When I fail to acknowledge the very source of my breath—my Creator, who has ordained each one—all of my acts of worship are performed in vain.
Finally, here is one more breath lesson we teach, and this one might surprise you. It's instinctual to take a big, well-supported breath before singing a loud passage, but it actually takes more breath support to properly sing softly. Isn't the same true as we walk through life as believers?
Think about it . . . when we're in crisis, we go into "need God now" prayer mode. We run to the Word for comfort. We take in big gulps of God, acknowledging our need for Him to carry us through the "loud" of life. But what about the soft times? The times when the clamor of our life-song decrescendos to a hush?
I don't know about you, but these are the times when I attempt to do it all on my own. "Life is good, I've totally got this!" is the lyric I sing to myself. But this song of my pride falls flat every single time. It is then that I need the message of the prophet Isaiah who pronounced in "The Valley of Vision":
You made a reservoir between the two walls for the waters of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago (Isa. 22:11).
Friends, when you came silently into this world, the delivery room erupted with joy as God gave you that first, big, sputtering breath. Don't forget that He has given you every one since, including the 100 or so you have taken since you started reading this post. Let's not allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking that because life is singing us a quiet song at the moment that the delicate dance of respiration is going on because of God's faith in our abilities. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever" (Rom. 11:36).
We are all in need of a cosmic voice lesson. In the loud times and the quiet, we need to be reminded of our utter dependence on the Giver of every breath, from cradle to grave.
When you're tempted to gasp in your own strength this week, will you stop to acknowledge that all of your activities are "from him, to him, and through him"? Is life loud right now? Don't forget to "just breathe" that next glorious breath given to you by your Maker. Is life quiet? Don't forget to acknowledge that every good and perfect thing comes from Him—your next breath included.