Monday, November 12, 2007

Sabbath Breath

I am not sure I know how to breathe. If I’m aware of my breath at all, it is almost always too shallow and anxious. Even when I make a conscious effort to slow my breathing down, I still never feel like I’ve gotten that one big draught of air that would fill all my pores with oxygen and renew me with energy and life. In so many ways, I am dying for lack of breath.

Today the kids have school and Will and I are off work. This rare blessed event has dropped like an unexpected gift into the usual busy-ness of our days. And so I drink tea, have long conversations, remember again how much I love my husband, write, read, pet the cats, and in it all I breathe deeply.

I was reading the section in Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places about Sabbath. He talks about how our work can easily give us the wrong perspective about ourselves:
“When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easiest to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection.” (p. 117)
Going back again to the gifts of my silent retreat, I realize paradoxically that the weakness I so often fight against is itself a call to deeper breath, to an awareness of my own limitations and my deep need for God. So often I think I simply have to try harder, be more organized, do more stuff. But those thoughts merely perpetuate the lie that I am the one who is keeping everything going. Sabbath breath means I breathe in all the fear and uncertainty of my own limitations, and breathe out the ultimately comforting revelation that it is not I, but God who is in charge. And that is the breath in which I find life—the humility of recognizing it’s not up to me, and the peace of knowing it never was.

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