One of my kids has “reactive airways”, doc talk for asthma. Not all the time and not that sudden type but the type that whenever he gets sick, it goes straight to the chest.
Then he starts this distinctive cough that lets me know my next few days will be spent hauling out nebulizers, inhalers, Vick’s, netipots, and on and on. The cough’s purpose was to force out trapped air so when the airways relax, the cough goes away.
Breathing is a pretty essential activity to human life so asthma attacks are stressful. We’ve always been able to turn the tide and get out of danger. In the middle of it, though, you don’t know the end.
Spiritually, the concept of breathing has been on my mind. I talk often in ministry about spiritual breathing- a cycle of confession (exhale) and filling (inhale). A few tough situations over this past season, namely the August Smackdown, brought me close to exhaustion…and my own need to breathe.
That tightness in my chest would come, that prompt to take a deep breath. A sigh. Like an old lady lament. I was feeling it, the old lady weariness.
So I sighed. Then, with each sigh, I reminded myself of the need to breathe spiritually as well as physically.
Exhaling. Recognizing I was trying to take control of the humanly uncontrollable. Fearing that God was not in control. Releasing the toxic build up of the thoughts and emotions and very real sin so I could take in more life-giving breath. This is confessing.
Breathing in. Each time asking God for more of His resources, His oxygen to extend farther into my soul and strengthen me for the situation. To have mercy and help me. Filling.
So what about asthma? Asthma, if left alone and not treated, slowly suffocates the victim as I understand it. With no room in the lungs to take in more oxygen, and CO2 trapped inside the lungs, the body is deprived of the oxygen that keeps it alive.
All the while the body is trying to breathe in unsuccessfully.
The body begins using almost every muscle it can in the torso to bring air into the lungs. Retractions, where the skin sucks in at the collar bones and around the ribs, notify us that our son is really, really struggling to breathe. The lungs work overtime trying to cough out trapped air. Lips begin turning pale. It’s terrifying and it would be time to go to urgent care.
In the physical world, there is albuterol and steroids to resolve the problems of asthma. Steroids control the tendency to flare up. Albuterol treats a flare up.
Spiritually, there is ordering our lives to God and His revealed truth in the Bible, the fellowship with the community of believers, the Spirit of God convicting and directing us…and regular confession. These all serve as the anti-inflammatory control to prevent serious flare ups of spiritual asthma.
But asthma strikes still. When spiritual asthma comes and we struggle to breathe because we know we are not right with God. Or we are working overtime to win favor and status with God by doing, doing, doing…there is, again, confession.
Exhaling by agreeing with God about our sin or our human efforts to earn forgiveness. Inhaling by receiving the resources He gives through His Spirit to live a life pleasing to Him. Sometimes over and over about the same old things.
Slowly, surely the toxic is released so the pure and fresh can roll in and bring life again.