When You Feel Like You Can’t Breathe: Setting Living Children Free

A couple weeks ago I walked away from my son’s house, after kissing him goodbye and prayed under my breath that it won’t be the last time I see his bright eyes and lively smile.

Because when you’ve mistakenly waved a cheery “see you later” to your child, ignorant that it’s the LAST time, your heart never takes these moments for granted again.

I drink in the laugh lines around his 30 year old eyes, wondering if mine had laugh lines at that young age as well.

james 30 birthday

I make a mental record of the timbre of his voice, the set of his shoulders, the way he laughs.

I cannot get enough of him- like a parched woman in the desert-trying to quench a thirst that simply cannot be filled.

He’s off to an adventure and I refuse to squelch his enthusiasm.

james at pikes peak

I’ve buried one son and part of my heart begs me to set up barricades and safe zones around the rest of my children.

But the truth is, I can’t.  There is no way to guarantee safety in this world.  And if I try to circumscribe their lives, all I will gain is a false sense of control and a strained relationship.

So I open my hand.  

Open my heart.  

Take a deep breath.

Pray for grace and mercy.

And let go.  

james and me yellow shirt 2015

How Do You Breathe?

It was the question I asked the bereaved mother that came to my son’s funeral.

It was the question a mother asked me as we stood by her granddaughter’s casket, surrounded by family and flowers.

And it is the right question.

Because when the breath leaves the body of your child, and you look down at the shell that used to be the home of a vibrant, living soul, you simply can. not. breathe.

What should be an autonomic, automatic, don’t-even-think-about-it bodily function escapes you.

When your lungs finally scream for oxygen, your body takes over, against your will.

And even more than two years later, it’s where I still live-between the conscious world of aching loss that drains me of the will to go on and the unconcious biology of a body still functioning without my permission.

I live in a no-man’s-land with one foot in the HERE AND NOW and one foot in FOREVER.

But there are no bright flags to mark its borders, no crossing guards to give warning to the people I mingle with every day that they are over there- outside my world of hurt-and I am stuck in here.

And so they wave from across the way, cheerful and unburdened by the weight of sorrow I drag around.  They give me odd looks now and then, vaguely unsettled by my inability to plunge unrestrained into their fun.

Memory escapes them-what happened? how long has it been? shouldn’t she be over that by now?

They can’t understand, and I’m thankful for that.

“How do you breathe?”

Only the ones who share the secret knowledge know the answer to that question.

You learn to will your heart to keep beating and your lungs to keep filling because there are others who depend on you and who need you to stay.

You can’t hold your breath forever, even if you want to.  

You lean harder on the hope you have in Christ.

You recite verses and hymns and fill your mind with the promises of Jesus.

And you beg the Spirit of God to fill you to fullness with His breath, His life and His hope.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NLT

 

 

 

Resurrection Power

I’m uncomfortable here in this world.

This world where children die and people hurt one another and justice is denied and babies go hungry.

I long for the day prophesied in Isaiah when the lion will lie down with the lamb, swords will be ploughshares and death will be banished forever.

Paul wrote:

All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life.

Philippians 3:10-11 GNT

He wasn’t only talking about the final resurrection, when all in Christ shall rise and reign forever with their Savior.

He was also talking about the earthly resurrection-of life breathed into who we are and what we do by the Spirit of God living in us.

It’s exciting to think about the life of Christ residing in me.  It’s not so exciting to consider the death of self that must precede that life.

But

Without death, there is no resurrection.  

Without destruction, there is no restoration.

Without surrender, there is no victory.

My heart rebels against this.

I want life without death.  I want resurrection power without the grave.  I want to know Jesus more intimately without being stripped bare and standing naked before Him.

But that is impossible.  

To be a follower of the Crucified means , sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact.

Elisabeth Elliot

I realized very soon after the news of Dominic’s death reached my ears that the last vestige of pride had been ripped from my heart by force.

I was, and am, in the dust.

I cannot raise myself from this prostrate position.  I cannot breathe life into this dead body. I cannot, by force of will, pick up and keep going.

I am fully reliant on the God Who made me to give me life.

But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter up of mine head.

Psalm 3:3 KJV21

This isn’t news to God, it’s always been true.  

But He has opened my eyes.

Forced to face the darkness of the grave, I can more fully appreciate the light of His promise.

victory over death