For the past 200 plus days I have been on a journey. I haven’t talked much about it, but right after Easter I made a decision to live a healthier life. Not only had there been little scare with my blood pressure, but I was tired of not being in optimum health. I had two vices that I needed to say farewell too; Diet Coke and Sugar. My dependence on these two things played a vicious role in my fully being my best self. I knew that it was time to say farewell to these habits. I had to start somewhere and so I picked the most evident.
The past seven months have been challenging, even hard at times…and yet it has been enlightening and encouraging as well. I have prayed for God’s strength like never before. I have had to learn to speak truth to what I am feeling. There have been days that my reflection of the past has brought gut wrenching tears as I realized how much of myself I have given away to harmful habits. But I have also learned that I can’t change the past…there is nothing to gain by beating myself up over the bad choices I have made…I can only correct myself from this point forward and give way to learning new habits.
This journey I have been on, and will continue for the rest of my life, has been more of a spiritual journey than ever being about a diet. The word “diet” is a bad four-letter word for the most part. We often talk about going on a diet, or blowing our diet…but the truth is that our diet is what keeps us alive. Food is fuel that gives us what we need to live and breath in this world. But so is prayer, silence, scripture, worship, community, love, grace, forgiveness…all of these are part of a healthy life of faith. A healthy diet in mind, body and soul give us the fuel we need to live life to its fullest.
While I have lost a sizable amount of weight, I have gained so much more in understanding myself and why I do the things I do. Putting perspective on the reactions I have to life and the curve balls it throws has been eye-opening. Giving God the space to speak into the whole journey has made all the difference. I have learned to treat myself with compassion, move outside my comfort zones, and to not let the past define my future. I may have lost pounds of weight, but I have gained a whole new lease on life. In fact its really more about what I have gained than what I have lost. I’m not missing those things at all.
One of my mentors has taken on a new exercise routine, and was recently talking about how his trainer was teaching him to breathe. I, too, have had to learn the value of breath when I’m exercising. I can remember back in the day when I wanted to start running and the hardest part of running was to gain control of breathing. It was my brother who taught me that you should inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. If we breathe through our mouth while exercising, we tend to work much harder and find ourselves in that “trying to catch your breath” place. The more we exercise the more we learn that our breathing is crucial to the whole process.
We can also find ourselves needing to just breathe when life seems busy and chaotic. I have a couple friends that tell me many times to “just breathe”. It’s a statement that carries way more meaning than just physically breathing….it reminds us to stop, look and listen and to breathe in that high-quality oxygen that fills us and and when we do things can somehow change dramatically. In the few short seconds that it takes to inhale and exhale we create enough space to re-orient us in how we might respond or act in those times when we seem to be out of breathe.
One of my all-time favorite praise and worship songs is “This Is the Air I Breathe”. The composer writes; this is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me, I’m desperate for you, I’m lost without you. These words speak to how one cannot live without God’s presence in our life, that God is the very breathe we take to live and survive in this life. There are so many references to breath in scripture that connects us to God. We read how God’s Spirit is described as a breathe that breathes on us to assure us of God’s presence, God’s sustaining love and grace, a breath that gives us life.
Psalm 150 encourages us to praise God in all that we do, wherever we are…and it’s the last verse of the passage that captures the essence of our need to breathe;
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord !
If we can learn to breathe it seems that so much of our day-to-day living takes on so much more clarity and meaning. Whether it be learning to breathe as we exercise our body, or taking the space to breathe deep when faced with a challenge…or simply breathing in the air we are given each day. This air we breathe connects us to something far greater…its life-giving…it sustains us and creates in us a holy space where our breath is God’s breath living in us. When we can visualize this while breathing, it seems to make each breath more purposeful, have more meaning, and equips us to be God’s blessing to others in this world. Just breathe!