My friend Sharla is a petite, vivacious Christian. Unfortunately, in the early years of her life, she was a heavy smoker, and recently discovered she has the progressive lung disease, emphysema. Although Sharla is optimistic and upbeat about the diagnosis, she realizes the seriousness of it. As we met for lunch and shopping a few weeks back, she shared with me about the disease itself, as well as her treatment plan.
“The main problem is this shortness of breath,” Sharla explained. “You know how I’ve been huffing and puffing every time I’ve joined you on the walking trail?”
I nodded, recalling her red-faced, gasping conversations. It had been almost alarming at times.
“It seems,” she went on, “that emphysema results from damage to the lung tissue around the smaller airways. This tissue normally holds these airways open, allowing air to leave the lungs on exhalation. When it is damaged, the little airways collapse, making it difficult for the lungs to empty and the air becomes trapped in the lung’s air sacs. They become over-inflated and their ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide is impaired, or even nonexistent.”
“This is the really simplified explanation of it, but the bottom line,” she finished ruefully, “is that my breathing is compromised; therefore, I huff and puff.”
One Monday morning I accompanied Sharla to her respiratory therapy session, mostly for support and encouragement.
“Take in a breath as deep as you can, then blow it all out,” the persistent therapist said again and again. Later, Sharla explained the purpose was to try to expand her present lung capacity. The idea was to exhale as much as possible in order to take in more needed oxygen.
“Gotta make room for fresh air,” Sharla quipped.
On the way home, She seemed very distracted. She asked if I remembered a Bible seminar we had attended, some years before, about how to experience God’s love and forgiveness and have more of His power in our lives.
Wondering what that had to do with anything, I gave it some thought, then understood. “Yes!” I said quickly. “The speaker’s main illustration was about physical breathing.”
“I’ve thought of it many times since I began therapy, especially when the pushy guy keeps telling to “blow it all out,” she grinned. “I remember how powerful that seminar message was, and I think God is using these breathing exercises to remind me.”
Straining to clarify the memory, I finally visualized the marvelous teacher, and his words came back to me. As best I could, I quoted them aloud:
“To make the most of our walk with God, to grow and develop as we desire,
we must learn to breathe spiritually.
Exhale – Confess, or agree with God concerning your sin, whenever you grieve
or quench the Holy Spirit.
Then, inhale – appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit on a moment by moment
basis. As you do this, you will experience true freedom and victory in the Christian
life. Your life will become a great adventure, and you will become a fruitful witness
for our Lord.” *
“That was a simple comparison, but it means a lot more to me now.” Sharla said, as we pulled up in her drive. I saw tears in her eyes, but in the next minute, I knew she was gathering freshness and strength to do battle with this dreaded disease.
“I’m sensing an even deeper truth to be learned here.” she stated quietly. “I am not looking forward to the therapy, medications, or limitations, but I know God is with me to help me face each day. I am realizing that, lately, I’ve not kept up on my spiritual exhaling – getting rid of my over-inflated self and sins, so I’m not able to take in His power very well. And I believe I’m going to need a lot of it in the days ahead.”
“So,” She summed up, “Looks like I’ll be practicing more than one kind of breathing exercise, and I could use your help, friend. Would you pray with me?”
Touched and humbled, I knew I had to do some concentrated exhaling and inhaling of my own.
We bowed our heads to begin.
*Adapted from message by Dr. Bill Bright,
Campus Crusade for Christ International,
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