I am quite fond of breathing

The documentary, 100 Foot Wave, depicts the quest of certain surfers to find and ride the biggest waves on the planet. At one point in the film, they describe what it’s like when you fall off the board and are churned by a monster wave, not knowing when the blender will spurt you out. You are a limp rag until finally the wave becomes bored and (assuming you are still alive) you look for the sky. When your head finds the surface, you gulp in precious air -and your lungs chide, Really? THIS is how you get your adrenalin rush??

One of the surfer’s wives explained why she had given up surfing. “I like to breathe.” she said. After one harrowing experience of being thrashed by a mighty wave, she was so traumatized that she vowed to stick with life on land rather than under the water.

We land dwellers take breathing for granted. But perhaps we should pause and give thanks to God for waking up this morning with breath still in our lungs, especially since many are laboring to breathe due to the ravages of covid or cancer. The Bible says God is the one who orchestrates our first inhale and who will be present at our last. Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” And Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.”

Only God knows the expiration date on our breath. In 2010 I saw my mother breath her last. The hospice nurse, possibly an angel in disguise, had told us the end was near. My brother read aloud text messages from loved ones as mom’s breath became shallow. She passed from this life having trusted God that this is not all there is. She believed that beyond our last breath lies an eternity with no more tears, with dwellings made just for us, and with joy filled reunions. As mom put it in one of her children’s books, “Heaven is more fun than anything we’ve ever done (or even thought of) here on earth – better than going to parties, better than eating ice cream, better than playing games.”

A month later we celebrated mom’s long life at a church service and luncheon that was a raucous party she would have been proud of. But in our family, and probably in yours, we have also faced last-breath moments that have crushed our hearts and left us scarred. A baby, a teenager, a grandma gone too soon. Some say when we get to heaven, question marks will become explanation points. But we who are left ask why and we struggle to put one foot in front of the other.

So for now, let us carry our question marks in one hand and God’s Word in the other. And when we ourselves inhale for the last time, let us fall at the feet of one who allowed his own son to die on our behalf so that we can live in those heavenly dwellings where ice cream is plentiful.

And during our earthly lives, we may want to just talk to God, through a practice called Breath Prayer. As we inhale, we say, “You are the potter” And with our exhale, we acknowledge, “I am clay.” Other breath-prayers might be — You are my creator; I am your workmanship. You are my shepherd. I am a sheep. You are my redeemer; I am forgiven. You are my shelter; I am beneath your wings. You are love; I am dearly loved.

And finally, you are the creator of the 100 foot wave; I am at your mercy. Thank you for conquering death, the ultimate monster wave.

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