As a little girl, I spent hours outside, running wild with the wind. I lived in a house on the marsh of the Lowcountry, where the coming of rain smelled of pluff mud and rotting marsh grass, and humidity lay thick like a hand on my cheek. I played arm in arm with Summer heat, imagination unbound, climbing and swinging on the fat rope that hung from the old, broken Oak in our back yard, raking pine straw into the floor plans of dozens of imaginary mansions. Sometimes I wish my own children had hours Free and running in a Lowcountry place, where history dances in the trees with the Spanish moss.
It was probably there that I first fell hard, my back thunking against the earth with a loud, punctuating whack. The audible last gasp of breath before my diaphragm spasmed and stilled, paralyzed, instantly became a memory toward which I reached, yearning to breathe again. Some things just aren’t valued enough until we lose them.
I remember the panic, the flash of thought—everything over, and then my mom running, running, calling my name. I can still see her, standing over me, concern pressed into her features. Then the lifting, when she scooped me up, sitting with me on the ground.
“It’s okay. You just got the wind knocked out of you. Relax…try to breathe.” She had that calm that mothers have when our children are swept up in emergency. Calm for me. Mom knew what it felt like to lose her breath. My PaPa used to tell stories, laughing deep and rich, about my mama climbing country trees at her grandma’s house, the way his mother would caution her, “Be careful. Your daddy’s gonna kill you if you fall out of those trees, Monkey.” And Mom climbed, fair hair flying, and lost her grasp, falling hard, losing breath and sight as she thunked flat on the ground and passed out. She’d wake up with her grandma standing over her, smelling salts in her hand, trying to help Mom recover before her daddy came round the corner.
I remember that first time, how soothing her calm felt falling over my fear, the solid strength of Mom’s arms against my back. It happened more than once. And it happens again and again, every time I fall over another of life’s cliffs. You know those moments, when something happens that knocks you flat on your back and you fall hard, and the normal you knew dies. There’s always space, a paralysis, before a resurrection. God ordains Pause, scooping us in His arms, sitting on the ground beside us. There’s a reason we can’t yet breathe again, wonder if we ever will, desperately need someone else to know it’ll end okay.
I love God’s wide open spaces.
It fascinates me, the way He stops time and clears out everything distracting us from Him and His purposes.
I’ve never had the courage to ask the way that Joshua did, for the sun to stand still in the sky (Joshua 10), because I know that God listens and draws near, and that every time He creates pause something happens that human beings can’t quite comprehend, something with sacrifices and values assigned on a holy scale, something well beyond the scope of this life. But God never needed me to ask.
Before the birth of Christ, God fell silent for 400 years. The people of Israel nearly suffocated waiting for Him, making up overzealous rules He never wanted, the famine of Presence making them hungry for Him. Then the sun stopped shining altogether when Jesus took His last breath, and the disciples floundered and hid, paralyzed in the space, their fear trembling in the Three Days. Then another woman’s feet came running, running, calling their names, telling them she’d seen the Lord alive, heard His voice, touched Him.
There’s always a pause before new life. And there will be one last silence, to end all others. I wonder sometimes if I’ll get to be in heaven then, if I’ll get to see the Lamb open the last seal and stand there in that holy pocket with the saints, when no one can breathe for the waiting. In John’s revelation,
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8:1).
All week, I’ve been thinking about how odd it feels, when I’m lying on the ground paralyzed, my body not working as it should, and all around me life continues.
We have taken kids to school, made meals, folded clothes, and worked on homework, all while measuring food for two, helping two with counting carbs, helping two give insulin injections, and I’ve thought, “Really? How is it that I feel frozen in a pocket and all of this continues?”
For a few days after we brought Zoe home from the hospital, after I saw her on her way to full recovery and adjusting, I felt like I couldn’t even move. My digestive system staged a full scale rebellion, and a cold I had been fighting came back with full force. Oh, the grace of God that my mom could be here, once again by my side, that she came running, counseling me to relax in the pause and try to breathe. “You rest,” she told me. “I’ll do this.”
So I slept. For hours. I’ve logged more sleep in the last week than I probably have in years. For a few nights, we took a break from getting up at 3 am to test blood sugars, Kevin heading in one door and me pushing through another, and we slept as we always do, holding on to each other. I had no choice. I felt God’s arms against my back, and I knew I sat in a space Elohim had created.
And the thing about the pause–that holy space between the paragraphs, the thing I love, is this: God dwells there. He sits there holding us, laying His calm right over our fear of the Unknown and Overwhelming. I read a recent blog post by Ann Voskamp that, once again, touched me somewhere deep, as she wrote,
…biblical scholars realize that the name of God, the letters YHWH, sounds like the sound of our breathing—aspirated consonants. God Himself names himself—and He names himself that which is the sound of our own breathing. When you are weak—take a breath.
That wide, open space where nothing feels the same is a divinely ordained opportunity to look full upon God’s face, to hunger for Him, to realize that He is every breath we take.
But before I can do that, whether I’ve lost a love or the normal I knew, I always have to figure out what to do with my fear. Because the first thing I think, when the wind has been knocked right out of me, is I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.
It feels like everything is over.
That’s why the others, knowing–the ones who’ve maybe even fallen so hard they fainted, come running to tell me that it’ll be okay. I feel them moving, surrounding me.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 4: 3,4).
I’ve needed them, so many strong women, who’ve told me they’ve seen the Lord alive right here, right now. They’ve touched Him, heard His voice. “You’ve just had the wind knocked out of you, it’ll be okay. Just relax. Try to breathe.”
Fear only deepens the paralysis. It suffocates. But to see God sitting here, to feel His arms holding me, even in the silence before I breathe His name, that’s joy.
The pause before every resurrection is His wide open space, a place to run Free with Him in the gap of time, a pocket of holy solitude. I want to settle in and see Him, watch Him re-order and re-create, remember what He deems important. That’s all that really matters, anyway. Oh, that He would remake my eyes with truer focus, and the clarity to see values assigned on a holy scale. This pause is my moment, the space of His attention. To embrace it is to breathe again, every breath the utterance of His name.