A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to go to a contemplative prayer retreat. It was only six hours on a Saturday, but it was more refreshing than I could have anticipated.
Throughout the day, we would listen to passages of Scripture, excerpts from books, or pieces of music and then reflect on them and write down and/or share our thoughts. It was a wonderful exercise in which we were able to interact with a presentation within community and find correlations and applications. It was a rewarding experience.
Late in the morning, my friend, Josh Pinkston, shared a song he wrote, which was very personal and quite moving. The last word of the song captured me, “exhale.” After the song we shared a moment of silent reflection. In that moment I realized that I had been, both literally and figuratively, holding my breath.
In my anxiety and stress, in my desire for control and consistency, in the busy-ness of my station in life, I was holding my breath. We all know what that’s like. There are times when we feel like we just can’t let go or let down for fear that all come to a crashing end.
I was there. Then I felt God’s whisper, “Exhale.” I did.
I cannot fully express the subsequent experience. It was like a deep sigh of relief, a resignation to what is, and the sensation of hope that comes rushing in on the inhale. It was also all I could do to hold back sobs as I was sitting silently in a circle of people, most of whom I just met. But, though my exhale, God was able to bring resuscitation and relief.
Following this experience, we were encouraged to take a short walk to reflect on the morning’s readings and songs. As we did, God showed me a picture, and through it, how close God is to us.
God’s whisper is his life-giving Spirit. We inhale and then exhale God to God. He inhales and is affected. In God’s care for us he exhales his life-giving, life-saving Spirit back to us. Even though God is transcendent (over and above all), he is also immanent (up close and personal). God is not static. God’s affections for us are such that he is deeply invested in us. God is the one in whom “live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) God even cares about our very breath. Jesus is testimony to that.
I share all that to encourage you this, find a moment in which you can sit quite before God and exhale. Let go of what ever it is you need to let go of, and let God’s Spirit bring you the life and grace you need to take the next breath and move on. God is all that for us, and more.
Grace and peace,