Your Breath, Lord

We did a new worship song today/tonight, and one of the lines in it says, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.” Both services it just completely reduced me down to tears. Even as I write this, they’re dripping down onto my pajamas.

As we sang that song, I thought of coming up on 5 years ago, when a motorcycle wreck nearly took Dana and me out permanently. That entire first night in the hospital, I struggled to breathe and it was terrible. I guess I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me in the impact. And it was as if no one understood that I felt I was being smothered by a pillow. My O2 stats were ok, so I wasn’t being administered oxygen. I was begging for relief no one could give me, and being strapped down to a trauma board flat on my back made me feel even less able to draw breath into my lungs. To finally get an open window and a cool breeze and a chance to sit up on the edge of my hospital bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning, much to my nurse’s alarm and disapproval, was inexplicable relief.

My Dana would have a much harder road to travel. He had a punctured lung from one of several broken bones, which set up infection and pneumonia on top of his multiple brain bleeds and state of comatose for 17 days. His neurologist told me that they had been more concerned with his lung condition killing him than even the traumatic brain injury, for he had developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). The illness causes your lungs just to shut down and start deteriorating. They weren’t wanting to re-inflate and work; they were a bit like wet paper towels that start just coming apart in the water.  Statistics are very high of people who don’t make it out of the hospital when they develop this condition. I can’t tell you what it was like for me, bandaged and braced myself, to sit there and watch him lying on an ice pad a few nights into our accident, as his fever kept climbing critically higher and higher–on top of the brain hemorrhages.  A person’s lungs and brain don’t survive much more of that–bouncing down the hardtop, then cooking with fever till they come apart.  For him to be on a ventilator for about the first six weeks of his hospital stay before moving on to the rehab center, unable to eat or drink for 43 days (yes, not so much as a cool piece of ice to chew on), I shudder to think of what might have happened if not for God. I was so glad that he was unconscious for the first 2 1/2 weeks, and not knowing how scary it is not to be able to breathe…for that is the most horrible kind of fear. I’d had enough of it in one long night to last me a lifetime.  All this was a surreal, curious mix of crazy nothing-left-to-lose faith and a threat of impending doom wanting to sit down on me and squeeze the life right out.

My mind then drifted tonight to our worship pastor, Jenelle Martin​, who a couple of years after our wreck was nearly crushed in a car accident. Her thin ribcage and small bone structure wasn’t enough to withstand that airbag’s impact, which broke her ribs and punctured her lungs. The hospital didn’t even know immediately what all was wrong with her, except she was in bad shape with pain and terrible shortness of breath.  It might have been easier to figure out what was wrong, except that before she collapsed on the roadside, she got her small sons out of the back of her car and to safety!  She was panting out the Word in her prayers as they shoved a chest tube in without any medication to help shield her from yet more pain. Her recovery time was painful and, like Dana’s and mine, a scary time of not being able to get a deep, satisfying breath and being able to expel it fully. I imagine she, too, felt like a good deep breath was worth all the gold in Fort Knox.

So I’m sitting at the keyboard tonight and I’m thinking of these things as I worship; and in the same line of sight, I see Jenelle and Dana both engaged in worship. He’s back on the back row with his hands raised (as high as they will go, anyway) and Jenelle is moving about and singing with her whole body, as she does–her worship is a little bit song, a little bit dance, and all heart and soul. The two of them are worshiping wholeheartedly, different in their individual expressions, and it’s a beautiful thing.  I am able to lift a sax to my lips and blow long notes with healthy lungs.  And the words to that song then hit me…all three of us are here now because of God’s breath in our lungs. If anyone in that whole church needed to be singing like we meant it, us three did. The emotion just overcame me, and I couldn’t hold it in; nor did I want to. How can we NOT praise Him with the breath we almost didn’t get! If not for Him, we’d surely have perished…and perished in a terrifying way.

You may be going through something hard and seemingly endless right now. I understand that, because Dana’s and my recovery seemed to be so far-removed from “anytime soon.” It took a good while to see light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed as if it would take more faith than I had to offer, but the Lord fixed that—He saw to it that, even in a time when I was shut away from church and worship services, that I still had the wherewithal to chase (with a neck stabilizer and a shoulder sling) after chances to read and hear His Word. When sleeping on cots, chairs, and couches for 8 months afforded me less than ideal sleep, and Dana’s erratic behavior would have me getting an hour’s rest here, two hours there, I would fill my ears with the Word. I read it. I spoke it out loud, I prayed it. I cried it. I even argued it! Somehow, in all of that, I did wind up with enough faith! Hearing and digesting and repeating it back to God, there was never a time in those 8 months away from home, or in the past 4 1/2 years of ongoing recovery, that I found myself with “not enough” faith to at least get me through one day at a time. God never required me to pay up front for that grace; He didn’t even ask for a deposit! He didn’t demand proof in advance that I have enough faith to move a mountain. I didn’t have to have it all figured out on that October night when life as I knew it changed forever. Neither do you, friend. Give your problems to Him and know that, while you won’t get all the answers up front, He will not once let go of your hand as you labor to get that good, deep breath. Lean back against your Father and let Him hold you as you work to just breathe with ease again.

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise

It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to You only.

Thank You, O God. You deserve every ounce of that breath offered back as an offering.

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