It feels like having a hundred pounds of bricks on your chest. Every attempt of breathing is like trying to breathe through a straw. Your back starts to ache from all the shrugging you’re doing just to let a little bit of air into your lungs. Your chest feels like it is about to cave in. Your eyes are bloodshot and sweat drips down your paling face. For a moment it feels like this is how it all ends. This is what it is like to have an asthma attack. Asthma is a respiratory disorder of the lungs. It causes the airways of the lungs to narrow causing difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. In extreme cases it can lead to death if left untreated during an attack.
Not too long ago, I had to go through this torturous ordeal of having an asthma attack just a week before Christmas. I woke up one morning, after a weekend of having a cold, short of breath. I’ve had asthma all my life so normally my rescue inhaler would do the trick and give me my breath back. Unfortunately it didn’t help. My symptoms progressed and worsened to the point of me almost passing out completely. My mother rushed me to the emergency room and they started me on continuous breathing treatments and large doses of steroids to get my lungs back to a point where they could move enough oxygen to keep me going.
So there I was on the ER bed gasping for breath. Trying to let in as much as much air as I possibly could. Moments pass before I started to think to myself, “what if this is it? Is this how it all ends?” Could this be the end of David Quilatan? It was a scary thought that the next several breaths could be my last. I found myself completely vulnerable and powerless in my state of health. My situation was out of my hands from the beginning of the episode.
If you couldn’t tell already, I made it though ok. I spent a couple of days in the hospital trying to help my lungs get well enough to make it home for Christmas. Upon my discharge, the doctors told me a bit of information that brought on a new perspective to my eyes. He said, with proper treatment and daily maintenance, my lungs will be able to heal properly and I can even live the rest of my life without asthma. Essentially, they told me that my lungs will learn how to breathe again.
In the Christian Bible, The Almighty creates man out of dust. In the first book, Genesis, it tells the story of The Creator who sculpted man from the dirt. It reads, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground.”It is interesting to note of our “humble” beginnings.Yes, we are born, from the beginning, from filth. We are beings born from a nasty, dirty, and grimy beginning. It is what Professor Cornell West calls “the funk.” We were made from filth from the beginning and are born from it up to now.
Let’s go back to the Creation Story. At this point, man was not yet finished; he was still lifeless, motionless, and cold, just like the dirt he came from. Man could not be left like this. There needed to be something more. Man needed a final touch to become complete. The Creator had one more step to complete the creation of man. In the Scriptures, it says that the Lord breathed breath into the lungs of man and that gave him life. There is a book in the Bible called Job that tells the same type of story. Job says in chapter 33,
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
He is saying the same thing that had happened all the way back in Genesis. His body, his flesh and bones, were made by God, but it was the Lords breath that gave him life. In the book of Ezekiel, The Maker is talking to a bunch of what the Book calls “dry bones.” He says that he will cover these bones with tendons and muscle, and skin. He goes on and states again how He will breathe breath into these bones and give them life. Whether it was Job or Adam and Eve, their stories are the same. They were once lifeless and now, springing fourth from the nothingness, there is life. They were once cold pieces of dirt but now they now have something to live for. Their existence now has direction, meaning, and purpose.
The breath that is given to us is something extremely special. It is the same breath that created the space above us. It gave the sun its fire. It put the planets into rotation. It tells every lightning bolt where it will strike. It placed the stars in the sky. This breath turned the Red Sea into a red carpet. It moved mountains. It turned a staff into a snake. It turned Moses hair white. It is the breath that whispered, “It is finished.” The same breath that spoke our world into existence is the same breath that was breathed into us, into our very own lungs.
In the Creation Story, Adam and Eve received this creating breath in the beginning. They did not ask for it, it was given to them. But something happened. An evil scheme was set in place to separate man from this life giving breath, and it worked. The perfect plane of existence The Maker intended us to live on was broken up and threw us on a tangent, a tangent toward our inevitable end. Toward wars, genocide, racism, and hate. Towards death and decay. Towards kids eating out of trash cans and women being sold into sex slavery. Towards smart bombs that stupidly find their way to innocent civilians. Towards the chaos that we live in today.
It’s a tragic state that we live in. We live in a world in constant turmoil, distress, discontentedness. It’s a dark and scary world that we are born into every day. It’s hard to imagine life other than what we see in front of us when all we ever see is more hurt, more pain, and more suffering. What can free us from, what Shakespeare called, “this mortal coil?” It is a coil that constricts us and squeezes us dry. It is like we are fighting against the tide in a battle that we were never meant to win.
But my friends, there is hope for us yet, because this is where it all starts. I look at this world and all its brokenness, and I can either say one of two things. One: this is just how things are and that this is all that it will ever be. Or two, I can say that there was once something here, something beautiful, that was broken. I see something that is meant to be fixed again. Think of it like seeing ceramic pieces on the floor and coming to the conclusion that there was once a beautiful vase before this mess in front of us.
So this is my prayer to all who find their way to this miniscule topical 1400 word essay. I pray that we all find ourselves with our chest caving in, with our eyes blood shot, and bodies stretched thin. I pray that we find ourselves powerless and completely vulnerable. I pray that we find our situations out of our hands. I hope we find ourselves face down in the ground at the bottom of who we are where there are no pretenses to cling on to. I pray that we find ourselves discontented with this world. And I pray that we all find ourselves desperate, longing, no I pray we find ourselves begging for air again.
This skin and bones we have is not enough my dear friends. They say that you are not alive until you are living, so let us all breathe in the air that gives life, purpose, and meaning. Oh, the precious life giving air. Let us find ourselves gasping for breath so that we can find ourselves learning to breathe in the everlasting atmosphere of grace once again.