Breathing Lessons and the Big Contest

September 19, 2014

I celebrated a milestone of sorts today, the last session of a pulmonary rehabilitation class I have been taking to learn how to breathe and manage my air. A group of twelve has met for a total of 36 hours over these last seven weeks, instructed by respiratory therapists, physical therapists, nutritionists, pharmacists, psychotherapists, and doctors. We have been supervised in the gym for a minimum of 1½ hours of tailor-made exercises each class day, and we marked our progress. We are now considered “educated patients” who have learned how to observe our health status and to know when to call the doctor.The experience is definitely a confidence booster, especially for the folks who are oxygen dependent and have been sedentary for fear of losing their breath.

There is a shortage of such programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, a long waiting list to get into the program, and chronic underfunding. It’s not a moneymaker for the hospital system, and yet it is one of the most important and necessary programs we have for reducing hospitalizations and maintaining good health. For all of these reasons, I have felt privileged to be a part of this group, getting to know eleven other individuals who are worse off than I am, celebrating incremental progress, and spurring one another on.

And now it is on to “maintenance,” the follow-up commitment to sustain the exercising six days a week in order to keep what we have gained. I don’t expect this to be a mental hurdle for me, since I was in much better condition than most going into it and had maintained an exercise habit in my BC days. I have a gym membership and a terrific trainer who holds me accountable and draws safe parameters for my exercise, so I am not worried.

It strikes me that this scenario is much like the attention we ought to be giving to our spiritual conditioning. Think about it: the human state without spiritual exercise is weak, vulnerable, prone to falls, and otherwise less-than-healthy. But the church—for all her flaws and underfunding—is the place where God’s people gather for mutual accountability, strengthening, and encouragement in the faith. The Holy Spirit is our instructor, using pastors and teachers and other saints to convey the realities, the temptations, and the help that will enable us to grow strong in the Lord.

The Christian Community gathers in worship to be instructed by preaching, or we meet in small groups around God’s Word. We learn about God, we become acquainted with Jesus, we begin to trust the Savior and believe his diagnosis of our condition. We learn how to share the love of Jesus Christ with one another. And then he sends us home with a set of exercises to do every day, because it is vital for our spiritual survival that we breathe properly (Genesis 2:7) and gain strength.

We need this strength to keep us from falling. We need confidence and courage for the uneven pavement of our lives. We need the breath of life for the uphill battles ahead. We need the Lord’s steady hand, held in conversational prayer, to keep us from wandering. We need periodic hearing checks, so when we must discern and know the Lord’s word on something, we recognize his voice and hear it even at a whisper. This all takes practice, and repetition, and perseverance even on the “bad air days.”

No matter how easy we think our life is at the present time, there is still one contest in each of us, regardless of our age, and that is our final assignment this side of heaven to die well and to die in the Lord. There may be other challenges before that one, but we know someday—in pain or shortness of breath—we are going to be tempted to doubt the Lord’s Word and let go of any sense of consolation or safety in Christ. I call it a contest because our opponent (you know what I am talking about) would love to see us defeated, hopeless, and dead (1 Peter 5:8f). But we know the evil one is defeated and powerless against God’s almighty hand (Hebrews 2:14f; Revelation 20:10), so part of our spiritual exercise is to be reminded daily that God is strong and good and loving us. My prayer, for the day of challenge, is that we would have enough strength left to laugh at doubt and spiritual foolishness and cling more tightly to the One who will carry us over the threshold.

Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen! (Jude 24)

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2 Responses to “Breathing Lessons and the Big Contest”

  1. houstonhodges Says:

    Conditioning, strengthening, keeping at it… in whatever realm you consider. Good interacting with your own innards, dear Mary; and mine.

  2. houstonhodges Says:

    Significant that Bible envisions the God-spirit in terms of a universally experienced human aspect: breathing out and in: ruach, breath.

    Sent from HH’s iPod Touch

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