Just a few weeks ago, I was hiking across Spain.  It was the first day and we had planned to travel 29km.  I did fine for the first 21.  But then suddenly we started to go up.  I told my friends to go ahead and not worry about me.  I suddenly felt old and I realized just how much I let myself go in 2018 with all of the stress and pressure.  As the trail zig-zagged up the mountain, I could only go 30-50 feet before I found myself gasping for breath.  Suddenly, something which I never think of suddenly became all important.  Breath.  Control your breathing.  Rest your heart.  All of these phrases began running through my head.

For most of us, breathing is something we never think about until we are out of breath, whether by sickness or fatigue.  Well, guess what… spiritual breathing is the same way.  Each of us is breathing spiritually, whether we acknowledge it or not.  But when was the last time that your breathing was labored?  When was the last time that you felt the strain of breathing–not because you are out of shape, but because you are striving to grow?

Truth be told, when it comes to the art of breathing and living the Christian life, breathing should not always go unnoticed.  Our spiritual shape is conditioned through spiritual exercises such as rest, contemplation, fasting, meditation, etc.  But it is also conditioned through the simple act of obedience in our daily living–and if you think obedience is easy and won’t leave you gasping at times, you are doing it wrong.

That’s why we need people in our lives who will challenge us to walk in obedience.  As believers, we do not focus on obedience in order to score points with God or become worthy–for we have already become worthy through Jesus’ sacrifice.  We do so out of a position of strength and security, desiring to please the Father.  However, it does not come so naturally and the words of Jesus to carry our crosses speak to this.

Who is in your life that is aware of your breathing?  What are the things in your life that need to be there in order to strengthen you?  What are those things that are hindering your breathing?  What process is in place to regulate this?  If you don’t have an intentional process which involves another human, I feel for you.  Accountability isn’t just for performance but like marriage, or the Jesus’ relationship with the church, it’s symbiotic.  It is mutual breathing in and out.

A friend posted the picture above.  One is a tree which, in a sense, breathes in carbon dioxide while breathing out oxygen.  On the right is a picture of a human lung, which breathes in oxygen and breathes out carbon dioxide.  We breathe in what trees breath out.

The art of spiritual breathing is found in relationships, intentional ones that are not always comfortable but are necessary to build your capacity to live and laugh…and carry your cross in a rugged place.