My husband and I had been leading a tour of the biblical sites of Israel when we first learned that the pandemic had hopped from China to the Mid-East. A few COVID-19 cases had been reported in the ancient city of Jerusalem and surrounding villages. Even then the threat loomed distant—like it was someone else’s problem. But each day the numbers grew. We flew from Israel to Cyprus as our itinerary dictated, hoping to wait it out there and soon return to finish our long-awaited and prepared-for six-week sabbatical in Jordan and Israel.
When we arrived in Cyprus, only two people had the virus. One week later that number multiplied, and the country began to close to tourists. We had to get home quickly. Reports circulated about the COVID-19 on American soil, and still it shimmered in our minds like a surreal mirage.
After arriving in the states, like everyone else, we spent a few days in disbelief and puzzlement. When we finally awoke to the seriousness and the reality of “no way around the desert route” into which we had been forced, I demanded of God, “How long?”
Like other generations or people groups, I had never lived through a war or famine or catastrophic event. I wanted it to end. Now.
The whole world demanded answers while we adjusted to new restrictions, economic instability, and the worst enemy—death at the door. We sentimentalized the ease and joy of yesterday during long hours of confinement. We held our breath.
In life before COVID-19, how often did we stop to check our respirations? The classic symptom of the pandemic virus is dyspnea or shortness of breath. This warning sign has awakened a global mindfulness of our personal breathing patterns each day.
And sometimes our respirations have been rapid or shallow or rough because of the reports swirling around us. At some marker along this strange journey, anxiety has gripped every heart—the fear of the unknown and helplessness in the face of the plague stocking the planet with great stealth.
This sudden shock jolted us into stark awareness—we cannot stockpile breath like we have hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Only God grants to us the immense privilege of breathing, or He cancels breath.
Breathing comes naturally all day long with the rise and fall of our chests one gasp of life at a time. This dawning and dependency of desperation for breath is meant to break arrogance and self-sufficiency—the false assumption that we can go on without acknowledging God. Him—that gave us breath in the first place.
And oh yes, all the questions…how can a good God cause this? Well, He didn’t. The moment we stop shaking our fists at Him or our government or another country is the moment we begin to breathe freely.
Pause. Breathe deeply today, allow the light, life, and love of God to fill your lungs and whole being. Exhale fully, letting go of pride, resistance, independence without God, and fear. Go forward in contrition, allowing the Creator of the universe to bring good out of evil. You cannot figure it out, but you can fall upon God to get through.
We just passed Passover on the Jewish calendar and Resurrection Sunday on the Christian calendar. Both are symbols of life from death. Picture Jesus, in the sepulcher the moment life came back into his body. That. First. Breath. His lungs filled with life, and I am sure he had the most satisfied heart knowing He had conquered death for all time.
Jews are in the days of counting the Omer before Shavuot. We await the receiving of the Torah or Word of God, which is our very breath and life. As Christians, we await Pentecost or the outpouring of the Ruach Hakodesh, the Holy Spirit, which is the holy breath of God. This will enable us with boldness to preach salvation and resurrection in no other name.
Scripture tells us that man does not live by bread alone. We are spiritual beings, and we need our spiritual lungs to be filled with the hope of Jesus’ love through knowledge of God’s Word. As we wait for Shavuot or Pentecost, the question is not how long will the pandemic last but how long before the Holy Spirit comes to fill our lives with the breath of God and change us forever?
We are in the desert in the middle of a raging and angry sandstorm. It’s hard to see and hear, even more difficult to breathe with the dust and sand swirling. But I see something with spiritual eyes—a resurrection of mankind that is unfettered with the trivialities and burdens of the old life and gazing into the eyes of pure and perfect love. We are no longer dying for breath, but have died to the old and embraced new vision from above.
“Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her Beloved?” Song of Songs 2:8
Lean into Jesus. Not just shelter at home but shelter in the arms of Jesus, rich in wisdom, tender love and mercy, until the storm passes. Breathe in His goodness. When you do, you will see signs of Him in everything!