A breath of fresh air
Recently on a trail walk through the woods of Scott County Park, my daughter decided to break into an all-out run. After cruising up a big hill, she stopped, panting. She looked back over her shoulder at me and said, “I’m tired!”
“Do you want to get in the stroller?” I asked.
“No!” she said, and ran off. A beautiful thing had happened: she’d found her second wind. Runners of all ages need and find them all the time. College students thrive on them in late night study sessions: half asleep, they jolt awake, keep at it, and without even realizing it are in full force again, perhaps with the help of a few swigs of coffee.
You’ve probably heard a reflection or two on the connection between breath, wind, and spirit in the Bible, but it’s worth revisiting in this moment. The coronavirus relentlessly attacks the lungs; yet a persistent breeze outdoors can keep us surprisingly safe. George Floyd spent his last minutes gasping and pleading for breath. Meanwhile, many of us are exhausted, in desperate need of a second wind.
“You must be born again,” Jesus tells Nicodemus (John 3). The teacher, Nicodemus, responds, “How can someone be born again after growing old?” Jesus eventually tells him, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”
Many times in life, what feels like a sprint can quickly turn into a marathon. This certainly has been the case with the coronavirus. Surely it’s the case as we deal with racism in our society, too. And you, I’m confident, could name many other races you find yourself running in which the finish line seems distant.
In Christian baptism, we say that people receive the Holy Spirit. From one angle, this is the second birth of which Jesus tells Nicodemus, the ultimate experience of receiving a Second Wind. Yet out of that ultimate source of new breath come abundant little bursts of fresh air. Every time we confess our sins, God has the power to give us new breath in the form of forgiveness. Every time we admit our weakness or collective spiritual exhaustion, like pumping air into a flat tire God’s Spirit can rejuvenate our being. Returning not just once but daily to God, we can breathe again and keep going.