Breathing Practice – Reflection for 11 February 2018
I had the privilege this week of attending an induction banquet for a college honor society. The speaker used the example of the safety briefing on an airplane as an illustration of leadership for these emerging scholar leaders. He asked them to recall the safety instruction for the “rare event” of losing cabin pressure. Passengers are reminded on every flight that when the oxygen masks fall from overhead, they are to put their own mask on first before trying to help others. His bottom line was that leaders must take care of themselves in order to be able to take care of those they are privileged to lead.
This is just as true in our spiritual lives. In our Old Testament reading we encounter Elijah at a time when he had neglected to care for himself. He had just spectacularly defeated the prophets of Baal but was left so drained that the threat from Jezebel sent him to the wilderness where he sat under a tree and wanted to die. The Lord sent an angel to bring him food and called him to journey across the desert and to the mountain cave where our reading starts. In a dramatic yet gentle way, God calls on Elijah to encounter Him in stillness. In this stillness, Elijah is finally able to put on his own oxygen mask and hear from God that he is not alone.
As we enter into the season of Lent this week I invite you to find the oxygen mask dangling in front of you and put it on first. As a start, take a few moments to settle yourself in prayer and ask God to review with you the rhythm of your life. Allow Him to gently or dramatically reveal the ways in which He is calling you to refreshment, the ways that you are seeking numbing instead of peace, the ways that you are seeking distraction instead of devotion, the ways you are scrambling to help everyone else while neglecting yourself. Now listen for His invitation to stillness, to breathing, to life. Perhaps he will invite you to a practice of daily prayer or lectio divina in this season. Perhaps He will invite you to use those spare moments of waiting that you currently occupy with your smart phone for prayer instead. Perhaps he will invite you to set aside whatever you turn to in stress whether it is food, alcohol, tobacco, anger, frustration, despair and turn toward Him for peace. Perhaps He will even give you permission to say “no” in some way so that you may be filled in Him.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent.