Just Breathe

Just Breathe September 26, 2018

It may be that I am ruining my life with Rachel Hollis videos on YouTube. It’s only because I am very backed up on my own life—so what better time to go down a YouTube rabbit trail. Truly, if it wasn’t for YouTube at critical moments like this, I would probably have earned a million dollars and saved the world. But also, how is it that in spite of my incredible dedication to this time-wasting platform, I never know about the existence of people until they hit the NYT best seller list?

So in the middle of this little clip Rachel Hollis says, “Whatever you believe is true.” She is reacting to a Pinterest meme that says something like, “Sometimes it’s ok if the only thing you did today was breathe.” This defeatism lit her up and she ranted for several minutes about the lies we all tell ourselves. You once believed in Santa, she explains, and that was true for you at that time, and it motivated you. It wasn’t true in an ultimate sense, but it was true for you then. So make sure that what you’re telling yourself now—your truth in its limited and limiting sense—is not stuff that will keep you from going much much farther than you surely can go. Don’t engage in negative self-talk because it will be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that makes itself true when you live it out by your defeatist choices.

In some sense, of course, this idea isn’t wrong. If you tell yourself something over and over again you will start to believe it. If that thing isn’t true in an objective sense, and you believe it, that will be really bad for you. This is a good reason to be careful about how you talk to children. It’s not helpful to tell a child he is dumb and stupid because he will eventually believe it. And what if he is, in fact, intelligent and interesting, as most children are. Saying, “you did that wrong,” is better than saying, “you are wrong and will always be wrong.”

And this is why the deep abiding Christian truth that the human person is made and fashioned by God in his own image, that God thought about you and didn’t create something stupid and wrong, is so necessary a truth to proclaim to every single person.

But in another sense this old and tiring idea of saying positive things to yourself so that you can motivate yourself to be something special and do something important, something more than just getting out of bed in the morning and breathing, is a terrible and cruel lie. Terrible because it crushes the gospel under its heel. Cruel because it lures you to take your eyes off of Jesus and entices you to listen to your own self-talk rather than to the word of God.

Because what is the gospel? It doesn’t start out very nicely. It begins with the ultimate and devastating truth that you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You may be made in God’s image, but that image is marred and ruined by your own rebellious choices. You have a offended a holy God and that is very bad. In some deep sense, you not only do bad things, you are a bad person. You have cut yourself off from the Light of Life. The question of breath is a rather interesting one in this context. You, who go on breathing, in spite of having offended the God who gives and sustains that breath, are this moment enduring a strange and terrible mercy. God himself is keeping you alive. Not only should you congratulate yourself, you should thank him.

And lie flat in the darkness of yourself and admit to God that you need help, that you are sorry, that you are in a pit of your own digging and you cannot, in fact, do more than you think you can do, you cannot do anything at all. Indeed, you cannot do the one thing that matters—live beyond the hour of your death in the light divine holiness. You beg and plead for mercy. You look up at the one who hangs on the tree and humbly ask him to forgive you and give you his own self, to give you not just the breath of ordinary life, but the spiritual and eternal breath of the Spirit of God.

Then, as you go along, forgiven and redeemed, you will certainly do lots of things, some of them very ordinary, lots of them obscure and unknown, but all of them important to God. But you won’t do them on your own. You will do them by his power, by his grace, by his mercy, by his breath. You will not have to help yourself because he will help you. You will not have to endure an endless circle of positive self-talk. You can turn to the scripture and read words breathed by the very breath of God. Their ultimate and primordial truth with strengthen and enliven you, will convict and rebuke you, will transform you into the image of the very one who saved you.

Honestly, if the only thing you do today is breathe, but the breath is the Spirit of God, and that’s what he gave you the strength to do, then eat a chocolate and say thank you for such a great mercy.

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