Sunday, October 24, 2010

Holding My Breath

In the course of his homily this weekend, our dear little Sicilian priest made reference to the Holy Spirit inspiring us to pray. The point he made was that Jesus was a man of prayer, and we are called to be prayerful, as well, after his example. I am a much better reader than listener, just as I am a better writer than speaker. Father's point was well made, and well taken, but it sent my mind wandering because of his use of the word "inspiration."

I have been toying with the concept of inspiration in my mind for a long time. I have been particularly drawn to the fact that the same word is used medically to refer to indrawn breath. The parallel is intriguing, isn't it? The Holy Spirit, the breath of God, gives us wisdom, understanding, fortitude, counsel, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. That same Spirit incites faith, discernment, and manifests the charismatic and miraculous through us. It bears fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Without it, we would cease to be, just as our lives end when we cease to draw breath. Without inspiration, we die.

There's another element here, too, that expands on Father's point. When we take in breath, we also have to let it out. Keep taking in breaths without exhaling, and you will eventually hyperventilate and pass out. I learned this well as a singer: even if you let out SOME of what's in your lungs, you can still get dizzy, see spots, and crash into the piano. You must exhale completely so that you can inhale new, fresh air (inspiration!) and continue. You must be obedient to the design of your respiratory system, or suffer the consequences. In the same way, we must be obedient to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He inspires us - to pray, to speak, to write, to be still - and we must. We can chose not to respond for a while, but eventually, the "breath" will become stale and useless, we'll lose consciousness, and it will escape. Very likely, it will escape loudly but unintelligibly. In my experience, it's far less amusing than crashing into a piano.

In singing, you correct the problem of inefficient breathing by learning to relax and breathe fully, keeping an open and unrestricted airway. It takes a lot of mental energy to do this at first; it requires intense concentration on a process that involves the mind and body on a much broader scale than just "regular" breathing. But it gets easier. Eventually, breathing this way becomes second nature. It doesn't require concentration or focus, but rather facilitates concentration and focus on other things. I suppose it stands to reason that the same is true of the Holy Spirit's inspiration, as well. When inspired to pray, we need to pray. When inspired to speak, we need to speak. When inspired to be silent (that's a gargantuan task for me!), we need to be silent. The design demands obedience in order to function. And while it may require considerable concentration and focus at first, it eventually becomes (closer to) second nature as we are transformed in His image. And friends, pray for me. I need to really be mindful and grow in this area. There are three pianos in my house.

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