When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them. "Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:22)
It must be somebody's law that when one thing goes wrong, everything will go wrong. This is just as true within the church as anywhere else. Is it possibly truer in Christian education than in other areas of church life?
A teacher resigns-you tell yourself you can find another. Funding is lost for an after-school program you tell yourself you can get more. The education committee wants two more summer programs-you tell yourself you can find the time for program development and design.
At some point you realize that you are kidding yourself. It will be very difficult to find another teacher. It will be next to impossible to find another funding source. And there will not be enough time to develop two more programs.
You remember a prayer by Father Malcolm Boyd that you read a long time ago in his book Are You Running With Me, Jesus? (Crowley, 2006). "Here's that light and sound all over again," Boyd's prayer starts. It then lists all the things he's got to do.
It’s morning, Jesus. It’s morning, and here’s that light and sound all over again. I’ve got to move fast… get into the bathroom, wash up, grab a bite to eat, and run some more. I just don’t feel like it. What I really want to do is get back into bed, pull up the covers, and sleep. All I seem to want today is the big sleep, and here I’ve got to run all over again. Where am I running? You know these things I can’t understand. It’s not that I need to have you tell me. What counts most is just that somebody knows, and it’s you. That helps a lot. So I’ll follow along, OK? But lead, please. Now I’ve got to run. Are you running with me, Jesus? (Malcolm Boyd, Are You Running With Me, Jesus?, p. 19)
Does that describe your life right now? These days, "I've got to" seems to sum up your whole life.
What do you tell other people to do when they are under stress? Is it to breathe? You take a few breaths. Your heart rate slows down a bit. You take a few more breaths, only this time slower and deeper.
One of your favorite hymns plays in your head: "Breathe on me, breath of God; fill me with life anew." Life anew is what you need right now. What is the rest of that verse? "That I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do."
That is your calling, to love and to do. That's why you are in the ministry. Does that mean endless projects and meetings and reports? Does it mean trying to work twenty-seven hours a day, nine days a week?
You become aware of your breath. Again it is short and quick and your heart rate is increasing. Breathe slowly and deeply. Slowly and deeply.
God blew the breath of life into a lump of clay and it became humankind. The breath of the Lord came upon those gathered at Pentecost, and the church was born.
The breath of God ...
the peace of the Lord ...
the possibilities of life in the Lord ...
A life of vocation.
Slow, deep breaths. A silent prayer while breathing. The heart rate slows. The words come:
Breathe on me, breath of God. Fill me with peace and with the wonder and joy of doing your work. Fill my schedule, Lord, but only so long as you continue to fill me with your peace, your life, your love. Only then, can I do "what thou wouldst do." Breathe on me, breath of God.