While I was in the hospital for my last round of Chemo, I got to visit a friend who was in ICU following a heart attack. She is approximately my age and the fact that she survived is nothing short of a miracle. Besides a life threatening life event, we also shared something else; neither of us have any memory of what we did or said for a few days. Her daughters told a sweet story about how, even though she can’t remember it and was hours post-heart attack, she was still being “mothery”. She was taking care of them and nurturing them because it was just her nature to do so. Let’s just juxtapose this with what came out of MY nature when I was interacting with MY family during my time in ICU. I don’t remember any of it (so keep in mind, they could all be just making this up). The story, in my mother-in-law’s words: “You wanted the blankets off or the blankets on or a drink or lotion or a foot rub or eye drops or not to be bothered. You were working so hard. It seemed you finally had run through your whole list and holding your hand I had assured you that we were taking care of everything we could.” So, apparently, while my dear friend was nurturing and mothering her family, I was bossing people around. Perfect.
The main reason I was admitted into ICU was because I got an infection that caused my stomach to swell up like I was pregnant, which smooshed my lungs and made it impossible to get a good breath (nice image, eh?). I was eventually intubated to give my body a chance to take a break from working so hard at breathing, something that is supposed to be natural. At the end of my afore-mentioned bossing, after I had gone through my list, I guess I said something else that I don’t remember saying. My mother-in-law told me that I looked up at her and said, “So (gasp) my (gasp) job (gasp) is (gasp) just (gasp) to breathe (gasp)”. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. She said, “Yes. Your job is to breath”.
“You know you are in trouble when your whole job is “just to breathe.” Breathing shouldn’t be something that requires focus. It’s something our bodies just do while we are busy focusing on other things. Blood is the same way (and you know how I love “blood” talk…). Blood flows through our body at all times and we feel nothing. Back when I had my blood tested 3 times a week and sat for hours getting an occasional blood transfusion, I was always curious as to why I couldn’t feel it going in or out.
This is going to seem like a bit of a leap, but all of this blood and breathing talk is reminding me of prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” I honestly find this challenging because for me, prayer is something that I don’t really understand. I just do my best to fumble my way through it, and hope God will reward me for a good effort. Recently, in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, I came across this image of prayer. Maybe it’s because I just came out of a battle with leukemia, where breathing and blood became regular parts of my daily conversations, but I finally felt like I’d found an explanation of prayer that made sense to me. He says this: “if we think about prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think right. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we are not conscious of it, but it is always going on…Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life.”
Prayer is more than a list of requests, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s also more than praising God, thanking God with a grateful spirit, and asking for wisdom or direction in making important life decisions. Prayer is all these things but it’s also MORE. It’s like these components are the organs of our body, but to make it all work, we need the “ceaselessly flowing” blood and breath to fill in the gaps. Without their constant contribution, we are just a bunch of useless organs in a corpse. Prayer is every nuance of our being, surrendered to God’s will. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Prayer is not something we DO, it’s something we ARE. It should be like breathing and blood flow…they are effortless, yet our lives depend on them. Don’t turn something as natural as breathing into a “job”.