The other day as I was out for a morning “power walk," I realized I was breathing harder than usual. As I started to pay attention to my body, I discovered a couple things.
My upper torso was quite tense: shoulders were hunched up, abdomen was tight, back was taut.
I also noticed my breathing was quite shallow. Well, that’s not quite true. I was taking deep breaths, almost in a gasping way.
But then I realized something that people who are serious about cardiac exercise may already know. I was not exhaling as much as I could or should.
I was inhaling as deeply as I could, but I was exhaling only so far. I started to wonder if I was not getting enough “fresh” air because there was still leftover “bad” air that needed to be exhaled.
So I did an experiment. I started exhaling all the way, pushing my lungs to expel all the air in them before taking a deep breath of fresh air. Immediately, I started to feel better. I struggled less with my breathing, and my whole body relaxed during the rest of my walk.
I don’t know if I played a psychological game with myself, or if there was actually something physical about changing my breathing pattern.
But this made me think about something similar within a theological context.
When we make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, we become new persons. We are called to walk in his ways and follow his path. There are certain hopes and expectations placed on us by our Lord.
This new life in him is like inhaling a deep breath of fresh air. We draw deeply from his words of life, his grace, his forgiveness and love.
The question then becomes, do we exhale completely the bad habits, trash talk, selfishness, greed, etc. that originally kept us from following him? Or do we hang on to some of it, which keeps us from drawing in more fully the new life that comes from Christ?
The letter of James says, “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” James 1:21 (NRSV)
Just like exhaling all the “bad” air from the lungs in order to make more room for the “good” air, so we must rid ourselves of those “bad” habits and ways of life in order to make more room for the “good” life offered in Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.