STRESS has a particular effect on the soul; it subdues, it suffocates, and it separates us from God — unless we, as his disciples, conform the materials for destruction, via the mediatory cross, into a blessing, and thereby grow. But we do all have a limit to how much stress we can handle — acknowledging that stress can be, and often is, the antithesis of spirituality.
So hear; we can understand life in its contemplative nature as a continuum between the poles of stress and spirituality — two outcomes, as polar opposites, of being distant from God and being irrevocably near. And, still, there is a third condition possible in one’s contemplative nature: that of being stressed, but of also having accepted it as inherently part of God’s plan for the extension of his Kingdom, as Paul often was, for instance, in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. We don’t glory in these sufferings; we endure them for God’s glory and for his Kingdom’s sake. Because we can.
There is a rhythm of breathing out and of breathing in, through the cycle of stress and spirituality.
To breathe out as an initial movement is to breathe all those stresses out into an atmosphere of receipt. We breathe out the condemnation, the confusion, the complexity, and all that confounds us, in preparation for what we will soon breathe in, through the agency of God’s peaceful Spirit of Shalom. Breathing out is necessary for making space. Making space is necessary for spiritual reformation. Spiritual reformation is necessary.
Breathing out anticipates breathing in.
Breathing in can only happen once we’ve breathed out. We can only receive what we have now made space for. Having breathed out all those stressful toxins, our lungs are empty enough to receive clean air — the sweeping wind of the Spirit.
To breathe in is to respire. To take healthy oxygenated air into our lungs is to receive respiration — so every cell may be fed on what every cell needs. There is only a subtle difference between respiration and inspiration — and both are connected to the Spirit; to wind. Wind is our life force. It proves we are alive. Physically, on one level, yet spiritually on another.
Breathing Out, Breathing In
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Breath of the Holy Spirit,
Giver of Life,
Provide, Lord, what I cannot do of myself — to breathe out.
Enable me to exhaust all that is in me that is not of You — make this real.
Help me let go.
Help me to let go of that which I wish to keep.
Restore my soul with Your very glorious sustenance of pure breath.
As my lungs empty, make space.
As space is made for new air, prepare me, O Lord, for better.
Purge me of the darkness that assails; bring thought through me of the light to receive.
Give my lungs energy to respire.
Help me heave upon the air, drawing it backward and deep.
Revive me by Your Word of inspiration so my respiration would not be devoid of You.
By the Lord Jesus Christ,
My Saviour, My Rock, My Redeemer,
Steve Wickham is a Baptist pastor serving in Perth, Western Australia. His passions are discipleship and reconciliation. He holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling. He writes three blogs: Epitome, ex-ceed, and TRIBEWORK. Steve also ministers actively through social media.