Excerpt from THIS SIDE OF BREATHING – now available on amazon.com
On vacation in Cancun, they taught us how to scuba dive in the 5ft deep pool at the resort. It was a beautiful day and my class clown of a husband, Richard, kept making me laugh while under the water. That was really inconvenient because it made my face scrunch up and water pour in through my mask – the opposite of what you want to have happen when you are under water breathing through a tube.
We learned how to correct laughing moments (pressure on the forehead, blow out through your nose to clear the mask), and how to allow your ears to pop to relieve pressure.
There is always the eventuality that your mouthpiece will fall out and you don’t want that. Luckily, there is a handy button that blows the water out to prep it to flow oxygen again.
We need that oxygen. The oxygen tanks are heavy on land, but so important. Air is everything when you are 30 ft below the surface – plus the water lightens the load.
Flippers. Mask. Tank. Waiver – should you die or be seriously injured . . . “yes, this is a fun afternoon activity.” I looked around. No lawyer huts were to be found on the beach to update our will (“Give the coin jar to Ryder, don’t spend it all in one place, son; Jayne, my princess of a daughter can have my fake pearls”), so I guessed it couldn’t be too dangerous.
Out on the boat and into the water we went. Everyone in our group jumped in, and we all took turns slowly lowering ourselves, managing the pressure deeper into the water.
I didn’t expect everything to change so drastically beneath the surface. Under the water, in the pressure, everything feels different.
I hadn’t really thought about how LOUD the world is until I was under it, in the pressure. In the water, the noise fades away, broken by the weight and mass around me.
It’s eerie to know that even if I cried out, in addition to having a mouth full of water, no one would hear me.
My feet hit the bottom of the ocean . . . okay, not the actual bottom of the ocean . . . we were only graded for 30 ft. dives. But, still . . . I could see the expanse of the water above and all around me. I now know what Ariel in The Little Mermaid felt like when she looked up to see the broken sun rays deflected in every direction casting light on the surface – the surface at which I could breathe.
Everything was slower, darker, calmer, stranger.
Vision was limited. Our instructor had some sound he thought could get our attention he would make with his hand and water. It worked when I could see him, but not when I was far away.
I got a little lost once. Richard came to find me. Then we got a little lost together. The reef was so beautiful, but the panic of losing sight of our instructor made the pressure and quiet and dark more ominous than it was before.
We found him. Scratch that – he found us. Turns out there are always wanderers on dives – seems right we were the wanderers.
Isn’t that the Gospel? He found us: wandering, confused, distracted by what we think is beautiful or worth it.
Jesus came into the depths of our world, facing the same pressure we face, and He led us through it – into a new life marked with breath and fullness. We are all wanderers, but we are not alone. Even the bottom of the ocean has a voice which commands it, a Creator who knows its depths and lengths and immense pressures.
Even on the bottom of the ocean, though my voice is caught and cannot carry, the God who made the Ocean sees me. The God who made me hears me. And He is carefully, patiently, leading me through the pressure and the depth.
With the direction and sight of the instructor, we traveled through our dive and safely returned to the surface to shake out our ears and breathe.
The clarity of that day hit me weeks later.
I had experienced anxiety before in my life, but I never had a way to describe the feeling until I went scuba diving.
It’s like all the weight of the world caves in around me. I’m on the bottom of the ocean with sight lines to the surface, but no breath and no sound and no speed. The sheer effort needed to get to the surface keeps me stuck like concrete in the space I reside inside my anxiety.
Have you felt like that? Like the pressure and the depth are at odds – the depth of your feelings at war with the pressure to stop feeling them?
Pressure shapes space. Pressure shapes us.
New baby. New house. Job loss. Diagnosis. Epiphany. Conflict. Mistake. Big mistake.
It’s a gift, pressure. Most of us spend our whole lives trying to avoid the pressure that is needed for us to grow. We spend our whole lives avoiding growth.
That is not for us. The life we have been called to is a deep life. The life you have been called to is a DEEP LIFE.
So, our lives are like a dive – learning to manage the pressure and the depth. The more you descend into the deep parts of life, the greater the pressure. The greater the pressure, the more you have to focus on breathing.
Remember the oxygen. It’s in the tank. It might be more complicated on the ocean floor. You have to focus. Don’t scrunch or rush. Screaming won’t help – Just breathe. In and out. Intentionally. In and out – the breathing moves the pressure around you.
The breathing displaces the pressure and makes a way for forward progress.
The breathing fills our anxious souls with the oxygen we desperately need, the oxygen we were made to receive upon our creation by our Creator.
We have an unlimited supply of life from the Life-Giver, should we choose to breathe.
At the foundation of the Earth, before man set foot on this planet, God intended and designed that He would give himself to us – in every way.
As Father – to love us unconditionally.
As Son – to be the sacrifice for us, to redeem our brokenness.
As Spirit – to sustain, to comfort and to fill us with breath and life, over and over again.
Maybe you haven’t heard this yet, and maybe you just need to be reminded of the deepest truth to combat the pressure and depth of the confusion of our messy lives: You, with your anxious soul – your tired soul – your wandering and lost soul – your empty soul – your mourning soul – your broken soul . . . you . . . right where you are in this moment . . .
The Holy Spirit is oxygen for your breathless soul.
And you can learn to breathe.