High school exams used to give me headaches. Standardized tests, especially (hello, SAT!).
One day, my dad made a useful observation. He noticed that when I took practice tests, I often held my breath.
As basic as it sounds… during these exams, I had to remind myself to exhale.
Are You Holding Your Breath Without Realizing?
Pop quiz: Are you holding your breath…
...fearful of how COVID-19 will play out?
…anxious for what your future will bring?
...worried about your toilet paper reserves?
If you answered yes to any of the above, let me invite you to pause. Step 6+ feet away from your neighbor. And exhale.
Why Do We Exhale?
Physically: Everyone knows we need to inhale oxygen to live. But, it’s equally important that we exhale carbon dioxide. Otherwise, the carbon dioxide takes up the carrying space in our blood and we don’t have room to intake oxygen.
Spiritually: The same concept applies to our spiritual lives. How can we breathe in God’s peace, if we’re holding onto a breath full of fear? If our hearts are full of fear, then we leave no room for peace. But peace casts out fear, just as light casts out darkness.
How Do We Exhale?
I want to highlight three parts of the Lord’s Prayer through which Jesus calls us to exhale. When prayed from the heart, these prayers expel spiritual waste to make room for spiritual oxygen.
- Surrender: "Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven."(1)
When we’re physically underwater, fear of running out of oxygen leads us to hold our breath. When we’re spiritually underwater, fear of pain leads us to grasp for control.
The problem is that, by striving for control, we’re inherently refusing the Lord’s peace.
To surrender is to exhale fear and inhale the Lord’s peace.
Fear says, “I don’t believe that You’re in control, that You love me, that You’ll do what’s best.”
But Truth says, “...we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(2)
In times like these, let’s surrender our yoke of fear and take on His yoke of peace.
- Confess: "Forgive us our debts..."(3)
It’s human nature to hide from God when we’ve disobeyed Him(4). We hold our breath in hoping that He won’t notice, that He’ll forget, that we’ll forget.
But, in doing so, we underestimate the cost of our sin and undervalue the price of Jesus’ sacrifice.
To confess is to exhale guilt and inhale the Lord’s grace.
Guilt says, “I need to hide my sins from God.”
But Truth says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(5)
When we confess, let’s remember Jesus as our standard for righteousness and Jesus as the price already paid.
- Forgive: “...as we also have forgiven our debtors.”(3)
When people wrong us, the act creates a cost that must be paid. We either hold on to a breath of anger, or we absorb the cost and forgive.
In a Christ-transformed heart, there is no room for unforgiveness.
To forgive is to exhale anger and inhale the Lord’s love.
Anger says, “S/he wronged me. S/he must pay the cost.”
But Truth says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”(6)
When we are wronged, let’s focus our perspective not on how much we were wronged, but on how much we’ve been forgiven(7).
When Do We Exhale?
Physically, we must exhale and inhale every day, every hour, every second.
And so it is spiritually.
Spiritual breathing is an ongoing practice, a rhythm of grace. After all, the Word doesn’t tell us just to pray when we feel overwhelmed; it tells us to pray without ceasing.(8)
Today, while we work to establish a ‘new normal’...
Let’s breathe out surrender, confession and forgiveness to make room for the Lord’s breath of life.
Exhale anger to inhale love. Exhale guilt to inhale grace. Exhale fear to inhale peace. —
Pray the Lord’s Prayer, and meditate on these questions:
- Lord, where are you calling me into deeper surrender?
- What are You calling me to confess?
- Who are You calling me to forgive?
(1) Matthew 6:10
(2) Romans 8:28
(3) Matthew 6:12
(4) Genesis 3:10
(5) 1 John 1:9
(6) Ephesians 4:32
(7) Matthew 18:32-25
(8) 1 Thessalonians 5:17