Receive a Deep Breath

Friendly Reminder: A weekly reflection from the Quaker Leadership Center

Last week, Della and I were starting our weekly directors’ meeting as we typically do—with a time of checking-in and prayer. During that time of holding one another and our work in the Light, a word bubbled up from the silence: breathless. I was fighting a cold and my congestion was literally causing me to have “shortness of breath,” but I had a sense that many of the pastors and leaders we seek to serve were also feeling “breathless.”

I got a strong sense that many of you are feeling breathless:

-after years of “unprecedented times” that never seem to normalize

-after struggling to stay creative in your ministry

-after having to serve outside your gifting for so long

-after feel misunderstood and constantly criticized

-after fighting entrenched systems and unjust power structures

-after neglecting self-care and family time

-after absorbing second-hand trauma from those you care for

I also got a strong sense that God wants to breathe new life into you and we were being invited to pray for you. So we did. And we imagined God breathing new life into you and the environments in which you live and lead. I hope it encourages you to know you are not forgotten—that we keep you in mind and in our prayers and in our work. But also, I hope it encourages you to know that you are on God’s mind.

I don’t think God wants us to live breathlessly. I think God is ever-breathing into the world, circulating and transforming the air in which we “live and move and have our being.” There are many biblical images of this divine breath (ruach) or Spirit, starting with the Genesis image of God breathing life-creating breath into the first human creatures to make them “living beings.”

After his resurrection, John’s gospel has Jesus appearing to his disciples—traumatized, exhausted, confused. And what does Jesus do? “And with that, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ ” (Jn. 20:22).

We use the language of “taking a deep breath,” and that makes sense because it does require a level of intentionality. But maybe the invitation should be “receive a deep breath,” because it also requires a level of receptivity.

Take a moment and breathe. God and life-giving people are breathing all around you and creating an atmosphere of grace (even though there is no shortage of pollution and toxicity in the world). Let it flow into your body and mind and spirit. Maybe God is the Deep Breath of the Universe and is inviting you to receive grace, energy, creativity and peace.

Suggested breath prayer:

Breathing in: “Receive”

Breathing out: “the Holy Spirit” (or new life, divine breath)