Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you." Then he showed them his hands and side.The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: "Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you." Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. (John 20)
I have the immense privilege and joy of meeting with a handful of women on Thursday mornings to talk about prayer as we read Henri Nouwen's book With Open Hands, then split off for an hour of solitude and prayer. It's a rich time.
This past week our discussion ended up around labor and childbirth. Not surprising, since two of them are expecting! We talked about how we are taught to focus during labor, to release fear and anxiety and be very much in control of our reactions.
Breathe. Focus. Breathe.
It fascinated me because I realized that we must do this daily! Not deliver babies, but literally labor to maintain control over our emotions and reactions. Certain moments in life - whether they are stressful or rushed or irritating or whether it's just me being a real bitch that day - whatever the underlying cause, there are overwhelming moments when I must focus and breathe through it. And when I do, it's better. Infinitely better.
Focus on what? On the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. On the Person breathed into me. On Love. On Light. On Life. On whatever is true, noble, just and pure. On the words that are hidden in my heart. On the joy set before me.
Living this way - abiding in Christ, walking in the Spirit - it's not about bootstrap effort, but it is intentional. In fact, I'd call it labor.
Funny, I think I've heard it referred to that way before.
That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. (Paul's first letter to Timothy)
This dying to self, loving of others, submitting always to the other, considering others better, and so reflecting God's Light and Love in this world ... as opposed to flying off, acting on every emotion that rises up at any given time, and therefor leaving wounded in my wake ... it's hard. I live in the hope that it won't always be hard, that a day is coming when Their image in us shines through unhindered. But even now, on this side, it's possible (on earth as it is in heaven). Everything we need has been given to us. Our Helper never leaves us. Like a labor partner, She holds our hand. And Her fruit is sweet.
Now breathe through it with me. Here we go.
indeeperslowerslowernow blow it out ...