Have you ever gone swimming? I don’t mean like doggy-paddling your way from the shallow end to the deep-end without getting your hair wet, which is impressive in it’s own right, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean like real swimming. Lap swimming. I was in third grade when my pediatrician told my parents that the best way to help my childhood asthma was to either start jogging or lap swimming. Being that I was from the fiery valley of California, swimming sounded way more fun, and to be honest, easier. How many times have I pretended to be a mermaid in my backyard pool? I got this. But there is a big difference between lap swimming and pretending to be Ariel, flipping perfectly long locks in the finale of “Part of Your World.” One of which is muscles, which I lacked, and the second, equally important, was the ability to establish a rhythm of breathing. Breathe in. Breath out. Before I could go under the water, I had to take a breath – a deep, sustaining breath. A breath that would allow me to go under the water, put my face down and swim – move. Without this first breath, I would come up gasping for air, without any progress down the lane.
You see where I’m going, right? Jesus said, Apart from me you can do nothing, and yet, I’m like, “Yeah God, I got this … did you not see my Ariel hair flip?” Nothing. No movement, no progress, only head out, gasping. And I am the worst at this. I tell myself to hold it, to keep pushing on, only to reach my head up … or raise my voice … which almost never (always) happens … gasping for oxygen. But what if there is a sacred rhythm, a reminder in the daily involuntary act of breathing that Jesus is inviting us into? If I am to do the work that’s required of me – the work that requires an exhale, a giving out of myself – where do I receive my oxygen? Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit (John 15:5). It’s an invitation to breathe him in so we can breathe that breath out to others.
We just added our third child to our family, and I’ve been running low on oxygen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled to come up for air in this new transition. I can also humbly admit that my lifeline, my source of oxygen, has been there waiting for me, and yet, I have bought more into the lie that I can do this on my own, that I don’t have the time to be with Jesus. How’s that working, you ask? Not well, thank you. It leaves me lethargic and weak.
I don’t have asthma anymore. Lungs can be strengthened. My doctor knew that if I spent time and energy working on the rhythms of breathing, the struggle with asthma would no longer stop me from enjoying life; I would thrive instead of having to sit out from backyard games with friends. This is true of all of us. Our spiritual “lungs” can be strengthened if we learn the sacred rhythm that before we can breathe out, we must breathe in. Before we head into a week with the emotional demands of parenting, jobs and relationships, we must sit at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words and his voice. Only then can seasons of pouring out be ones of fruitfulness and joy. Hair flip and all.
Vanessa Dalrymple is in love with a bearded pastor, a mother of three and a worshipper of the King. I live in the high-desert of Oregon, dreaming of the humid south. She leads worship with her husband and tries to write thoughts and songs after her kids’ bedtime (there are a lot half-written).