I did something stupid last night. I was so hungry I ate something that I knew might be risky for someone with my health challenges.
In the middle of the night I woke up feeling short of breath. Of course, with all the warnings going around, I immediately feared I had suddenly come down with covid19. Then I remembered eating a bowl of gluten-free cereal. My body protested. It doesn’t like any grains. So much for sleep.
“I can’t breathe,” I panicked.
As I sat on the edge of the bed and consciously practised the deep breathing methods I taught my singing students for so many years, I remembered how often I have heard this phrase recently. I can’t breathe. “I can’t breathe” is the cry of people critically ill with the virus that has filled so many with fear. It’s the cry at many demonstrations protesting racism. I’ve seen it on shirts, heard it in chants, and listened to people who tell me they feel so stifled, restricted, constricted, and encroached upon by current circumstances it feels like they can’t breathe.
Then there were memories of that traumatic Good Friday our son-in-law was not expected to live. He had sepsis and was on a respirator. He was hemorrhaging into his lungs.
“He can’t breathe on his own,” the doctor said. “We want to send him to a bigger hospital but he’s on 100% oxygen now and they won’t take him on a medivac flight.”
I don’t think a person can be in a more dependent position than to need a machine operated by a respiratory technician to breathe for them. Thousands joined to pray for him and God responded with a miracle. On Pentecost Sunday he walked into a gathering of some of those praying people with perfectly healthy lungs — and all his limbs intact.
In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is called Ruach HaKodesh. Ruach means breath or wind. Kodesh means holy. It’s the breath of God that made humans come alive. Jesus breathed on his disciples when he imparted the Holy Spirit to them and when the Holy Spirit came in power to the 120 people gathered in an upper room, he entered as a mighty wind.
“I can’t breathe,” I prayed in the dark. “I’ve lost my breath. I need you, Lord. Breathe on me.”
Eventually peace entered the room and I began to breathe normally.
This morning, a song by Marty Goetz played in my head. It’s a prayer for the holy Breath and Spirit Wind of God to come in power and fan the flame that once burned more brightly.
I don’t think I am the only one in the strange circumstances facing us these days to feel that now is a time to acknowledge our need for help and to humbly acknowledge our dependence on Ruach HaKodesh to be our breath. This is also my prayer.
“Blow, Spirit, blow. Come and fill this weary soul. In your mercy send a holy wind. Until you do, I’ll wait for you to breathe on me.”