Had a lot of fun swimming in a lap pool near the end of our holidays; although I did one lap faster than usual, but ended up gasping for air, with my shoulders and upper arms all tied up. My poor old body wasn’t ready for that level of activity yet! Got to try again soon -perhaps a little more measured this time.
The problem is that we need to breathe enough to be able to perform the task or the exercise we’re engaged with. We may even need to train our bodies to breathe is a specific way…I remember Peter Garrett telling me how he and Jane had to prepare for to climb Kilimanjaro by using time in a hyperbaric chamber. They needed to develop their breathing for the greater altitude.
We often get into things that leave us breathless because we hadn’t built up the resources we needed for what we’d been planning to do.
The same happens in our spiritual life. Too often we live our spiritual lives as if we have a gas mask on not realising or practising that there is a wonderfully enlivening environment of the Spirit of God all around us. We continue to serve without pause as if it all depended entirely upon us; as though it was my work that I was doing. In fact we do it with life, working without pause for refreshment or reflection as thought here was some virtue in that.
In secular writing Stephen Covey warns of the necessity to “sharpen our saw” occasionally to enable us to function more effectively. In the Bible God reveals this to be wisdom that comes from above. The Psalmist warns (Ps 46) that we need to still our activity and silence our noise in order to know God’s refreshing, healing presence in our lives. The caution is that we should remember where it is that our call to serve and the equipment with which we serve come from One who has more to offer than we are capable of taking on. We need to steep ourselves in the environment to which God calls to be refreshed and encouraged.
In His last supper teachings, Jesus tells what the nature of that environment is; it is the being of God’s own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Encourager and Standby). God Himself then is the environment and the path by which we come to that place of refreshment and re-equipping. Jesus’ specific promises are; first, that this Divine presence will persist with us; second that He will always show us the truth about things; third that He comes as Jesus’ representative with us; fourth, that He will teach all that we need to know; fifth, that he will remind us of what He has thus far shown us; sixth, peace of mind; and seventh peace of heart.
This is Jesus’ promise of an enduring Presence to guide, comfort and strengthen them for the various aspects of following Him; to create an environment for growth, change, healing, renewal and equipping, a place to which He is constantly calling us.
What can you do then? The practice of the presence of God is built on the assumption that He is ever-present – unfailingly present, and that He is about communicating and saving – no matter what kind of a mess I’ve got myself into. So what can you do to get this started?
It’s so simple. Take time and space to be alone with God and to tell Him where you are at in your life. Know that in Jesus even your worst sins can be removed as an obstacle if you’d just say what they are and ask for His grace and forgiveness. Then ask Him to fill you to overflowing with His Holy Spirit and then just wait quietly for Him to breathe His Spirit and life into you. You may not experience anything you can touch or describe, but He will be at work, so thank Him and ask Him to remind you to notice His presence around you at any time.
Continue to give Him time and space for communication and your silent attention, but also begin to realise that He is always with and for you and that you can talk with Him at any time and in any place. Remember that He is the very air from heaven that you breathe as you live for and witness to Him.
Deep Breath and on to the next wave