Between the Inhale and Exhale

The silence around me is precious, and I feel as though I’ve stolen it. Writing is a chore when I am distant from the rhythm of my own breathing, when the motions of my day are frenetic and I fail to notice I’m breathing or that breathing is gift or that I am just a breath.  Drawing near means slowing down. Urgent nips  heels like a dog at sheep. Slowing is chore when I make my home in task, when breath is taken in gasps and sighs. Yet without breath, life ebbs.

I’ve been nursing a sick family. Each has dropped one by one, sidelined by a tenacious virus. One parent has been down for the count for five days, and I have been all to all for a spell. Fevers brought shivers and body aches. Coughs disturbed sleep.  I tried to keep the house-turned-hospital quiet, the kids out and occupied. I’ve been a tempest to be reckoned, a wild blur of activity. The carcass of a chicken is stewing, and I have been crafting a broth, a rich dark broth that comes with care and time, time enough to draw marrow from the bones. Germs are attacked in a daily baptism of cleaning sprays and soap. Juices and teas are fetched and stored. Bedding laundered. Children dropped off and fetched. Homework monitored and readied for submission. Absences excused. Debits recorded. Fluids pushed. And then suddenly, as if someone gave the signal, two are quiet, chests rising and falling in the sleep of a body trying to heal. Urgency rests.

Inhale. Exhale. And just as suddenly I am awake. “Every day I have to do the frivolous work of reminding myself I am a body,” writes Laura Good in her post. Inhale. The tasks are swept up in mass. Exhale. I let them go. I am here again, here inside my body. Outside the window, the broken glass that’s been made into a wind chime tinkles in the wind, and I am suddenly aware of wind. The branches of the old Live Oak quiver against a sky unnaturally blue. And I am in a place. I have a setting, the heater humming quietly at my ankles while I in my body sit under that sky.

The Spirit of God is quiet, like my thoughtful, brooding boy trying not to be noticed when the teacher looks his way. The mystery of God’s presence confounds. Yet its sweetness is savored best in quiet, in between the inhale and the exhale. Though quiet, I dare not call it weak, this Spirit who can gust like the wind and make the branches on the old tree quiver. My own spirit quivers in the eddies it stirs. I am a body in need of spirit, a carcass in need of the breath of life. And mysteriously life is here. And as his spirit inhales, my cares are drawn up. As he exhales, my burden is lightened. With each inhale, I know that I am a vapor. With each exhale, I know that the vapor is safe in his love. As much as tomorrow is not today’s guarantee, it is also not today’s worry. For now I am thankful. We have been very blessed.

Tending the sick helps me see the loveliness of health and behold its radiant vigor. The task is a gift, one that helps me empathize in small portion with those who suffer and those who alleviate suffering. The ones who undertake such a holy task set aside their own needs. The tasks can be frenetic. They can pile and overwhelm. They are a ritual of sacrifice. If breathing is suspended for a time, God is between the inhale and the exhale. In his gracious mercy, he gives the signal. Quiet descends for a moment, and breathing returns. God’s precious gift is bestowed, and life flows into the weary, just in time.