My feet pounded on the uneven pavement. My side twinged. I concentrated on my breathing. Four steps breathing in. Four steps breathing out. Four steps in…
The road stretched out before me, my white truck a tiny dot on the horizon. I couldn’t think about my peanut butter-feeling legs or worry about that tiny bit of pain in my right calf muscle. I focused on my breath. Four steps in. Four steps out…
I continued to breathe.
My life is so much like a long run these days. If I focus on the pain or how far I need to go, the panic sets in and the exhaustion consumes me. But, if I only breathe, focusing on one simple task at a time, I am given the freedom to keep going.
It is no surprise that Jesus often warned against worry, urging us to keep our thoughts and minds focused on the day. Our loving God knows that the more we live in the moment the easier we will be able to trust in Him, enjoy our life, and become efficient as we use our hearts and minds to the fullest as we remain in the present.
A few weeks ago, when I first started training, that side ache made each run excruciatingly painful. I would be sore for days. Research suggested that I needed to start pacing myself using my breathing. To do so, I had to put away the Mp3 player and concentrate while I ran. Suddenly my long runs became doable and then enjoyable. The side aches were gone, and I could run without weighing down my mind with worries about my body or the distance. It has taken training to keep my mind concentrated on my breathing, but even outside of this physical training I’ve noticed that I am more centered, relaxed, and living in the moment.
When our minds are focused on things outside our current activities and control, we allow a toxic activity to rot away the power of the moment: worry.
When I am worrying about how many dishes are piled in the sink, I am not enjoying Micaela showing me her new block-stacking skills. When my mind fills with the challenges Adela will face in Kindergarten, my heart is not invested in our story time together. In John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” For me, the enemy’s best weapon has always been anxiety and fear.
But, God continually gifts me with new training to negate the enemy’s attacks. What a surprise that running would have brought this blessing.
So, I breathe in, I breathe out. I keep my eyes on the task, my mind in the moment, my heart in the present.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Have you ever tried an activity such as deep breathing to combat fear or anxiety? What other actions have you found helpful? Comment below and bless somebody with some new ideas.
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