Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Over Our Heads

"Anything that is over your head is under God's feet."

I saw this quote on a church sign the other day as I drove to the store. The immediate picture that came to mind kind of creeped me out. Like floating not far above my head is this clear floor through which I can see God's giant Jesus sandals. Like He might fall in on me at any moment. I continued thinking about it as I drove and I kept zooming out from myself, farther and farther away until I was just a little speck in my own mental picture. I thought about how big and how broad and how massive this world, this universe is, and how teeny, itty, bitty tiny I am. All the things that feel like they might swallow me up? They're not even blips on the world's radar.

I used to have panic attacks in college. I still get small ones occasionally, mostly just ones when it feels like I can't quite breathe in all the way. They are mostly out of my control and usually just mean I need to eat more balanced meals (hello, mom's healthy lunch of chips and cookies), but whenever they hit, I make myself stop and breathe. Here we go, Aleah. Breathe in, breathe out. In. Out. As I start to calm, I can breathe deeper. In... Deeper... Okay, out... All the way. Finally, I will hit a breath that fills my lungs up all the way and my shoulders relax and I'm good. I carry on about my day and don't think another thing of it.

I remember sitting with my daughter's neonatologist, trying to figure out how to ask him if my daughter was going to die. I was having one of these small panic attacks, one no one would know I was having. I was coaching myself to breathe while I tried to pull together words that didn't sound frightening. "Is she going to... to be okay?" Whatever "okay" means. "Oh, yes!" he encouraged quickly. "Yes, her autonomic system is functioning fine. We just need to get these platelets under control." Big breath out. I'd been holding it. Forgot to let go. "You know, there are long term concerns and we'll cross those bridges when we get there, but yes, she's going to pull through." In that moment, I just felt washes of relief. I could allow myself to love her and not fear. I could focus on the immediate concerns and not feel like we were teetering on a high wire. I could do this. We... could do this.

Later, I went to write up my report from that day for our faithful prayer warriors when I realized I had no idea what an "autonomic system" was. I Googled it (though I'd been encouraged not to Google things, I felt like this was a safe one) and learned the term for something that all of us take for granted every day. The autonomic nervous system controls what we think of as "automatic" things: heart rate, breathing, digestion, etc. The things in our bodies that just "happen"... they have a control. In my daughter's case, while her platelets were a wreck, her breathing and heart rate and temperature were all holding steady and this was encouraging. This meant she would "make it". Without those things, it gets dicey. But her body was doing it, praise God.

I couldn't help but go back to sitting in that chair with the doctor, controlling my breathing. Telling myself, in, out, in, out. Just for a moment, maybe a minute, max. And then I was back to my life, doing my "thing" while my autonomic system kept going without my reminder. In, out, in, out. My heart, dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum, the blood whooshing in and out. Just going. Going. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for fifty-two weeks, for twenty-seven years and counting. In, out, dum-dum, whoosh. And I couldn't help but multiply myself by all the people who I knew would read my update and prayer request for my daughter. By the people in my family and in my church. All the lungs and hearts and ins and outs and dum-dums and whooshes. Seven billion of us. Nine zeroes of ins and outs and dum-dums and whooshes. And God sees them all.

"In his hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10) The breath, the ins and outs, of all mankind. All of us, all seven billion. I have the power to focus on my own breathing... for about a minute. I suppose I could do it all the time, but it would be able all I could do. And eventually I'd have to sleep. God's hand is delivering the breath of all mankind, all the time. This... is a big, big God. A God for whom anything that has me in "over my head" is but a blip, a breath. What a marvelous resource of power! What a great and powerful God! This is not a God we should doubt, but rather one we can turn to, count on, have faith in.

But here's the real kicker: this big, big God, the one who gives ins and outs to the nine zeroes of all mankind... does not stop at giving us life. He offers us Life. Capital "L". "Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'" (John 4:13-14) We all drink the water of life, the water that we will thirst for again. We all enjoy the blessings of life and breath and beating hearts. All seven billion of us. But Jesus offers a living water, one that promises eternal life. The woman to whom Jesus spoke these words realized he was talking about something more. "The woman said to him, 'I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am he.'" (John 4:25-26) This woman who came for water at the well... she is the first person to whom Jesus reveals Himself as the Christ. She was thirsty. Her body needed something and she was seeking to meet that need. Jesus met her there and showed her that while she could address her physical thirst, only He could meet her true needs, her eternal needs, her soul's needs.

My daughter will be okay. Her ins and outs and dum-dums and whooshes are faithfully doing their thing. God has blessed her with the breath of life, as He has all mankind. But my daughter's Great Need, all of our Great Needs, are only met with the living water of Jesus, the true eternal Life. And it is really quite simple. Jesus' disciples, after His resurrection were asked, "'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'" (Acts 16:30-31) The eternal Life comes with belief in Christ, submission to His will, to God's will, the recognition that our lives are not our own, but rather are God's. To see this? I say look no further than your own breath. In... and out. In... and out. For however many hours and days and weeks and months and years you have been here, will be here. Your "autonomic system"? Is God... in you... with you. Every moment of every day.

We already live in the palm of the God who separated light from dark, who numbers the hairs on your head and contains the storehouses of snow. We have already cashed in His promise of life and breath by our simple existence, our very being. We have already tasted the water that sustains us from day to day. We have already breathed in deep the air He has given us and enjoyed the blessing of thousands, millions, billions of heartbeats. So many zeroes of dum-dums and whooshes. The promise of Christ is one of eternity, of a never-thirsting, of a new heart. One that doesn't rely on autonomic systems or daily water glasses, but one that endures forever.

It's true. Anything that is over your head is ... not so much below God's feet, like in my hovering-just-above-me mental picture. It is more that God is in anything that is over your head. Just as He is in the hearts and lungs of the seven billion, He is in and around and over and under all things, wrapping around our hurts and hearts and cries for help. If you think you have to call for Him to come, you are mistaken. He is already there, already reaching, already hearing. And beyond the ins and outs and dum-dums and whooshes, He is ready and willing with living water, pumping blood through our hearts of stone until we open ourselves to Him and welcome Him to turn that stone to flesh.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers,
and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 
(Ezekiel 36:25-28) 

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