June 2, 2020

Since writing a Pentecost Prayer of Lament, born out of despair over having surpassed the 100,000th death in the U.S. from COVID, coupled with the killing of George Floyd, I have had his last words, “I can’t breathe. Help me.” on my mind. 

We are God-breathed creatures, beings whose very lives depend on each next breath. Richard Rohr noted that when Moses asked God what God’s name was, the answer was the unspeakable word, Yahweh, best pronounced as the sound of a deep breath in and a deep breath out. That is the first as well as the final sound each of us makes. In between, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. 

In a medical emergency, one of the first things that rescue personnel tell on lookers is to, “Give him/her some space to breathe. A spouse might say, “I need some breathing space.” An exhausted athlete may ask for a breather. When our sons, separated by only 14 months, would be bickering and picking at each other, sometimes I’d send them to time out for a little so that I could get some breathing space. 

I wonder what might happen if we gave each other breathing space right now. What if we used that space to listen, to each other, to our own hearts, to the heart of God? What if we lived into our God-breathed nature, not just as individuals but as a community? What if we used just a few of our breaths each day to remember what our breath says, what is already within us? Thomas Merton wrote, “My God, I pray better to you by breathing. I pray better to you by walking than by talking. Each breath we take is a gift. Each moment of life is a grace. One such moment was captured by a friend yesterday, as if in answer to my lament. 

A person standing next to a window

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Breathing space is sacred space! ~ Anne

PS – in order to give myself a bit more breathing space, beginning the week of June 7th, I will be writing three meditations each week, sent on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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