Straight from a Breathing Heart
By Lisa Elliott

Years ago, my husband and I were at a mall when we came across a pop-up store offering Aqua-massages. Neither of us had ever heard of such an invention. However, knowing how much I appreciate a good massage, my husband encouraged me to go for it. Intrigued, we paid our money.

I was first instructed to climb up into an elevated large coffin-like structure, fully clothed and face-down. I was then told to position myself in such a way as to fit my nose and mouth within a small opening on a cushioned headrest on this, so-called, massage table. Next, I was instructed to place my arms on armrests located on either side with my hands toward my head. Before I knew it, a large lid was being closed over top of me. Once closed, it locked my head and hands into place. I worked to put the doomed feeling aside that I was being held hostage and took a deep breath in a helpless attempt to relax into this thirty-minute experience. Then, with a hollow moaning sound, something like a soft, human-sized water bag slowly worked its way up my body, much like a jellified rolling pin. Beginning at my feet, it maneuvered up my back toward my neck and back down to my feet again. Repeat and repeat again.

As I lay inside this mumbling monster, suddenly, the air seemed to be sucked out of my lungs and my body broke into a profuse sweat. That was the moment I realized that I was being buried alive in a life-size waterbed that had taken on a life of its own!

Panic-stricken, I said to whoever might be within earshot, “Please get me out of here!” The machine, however, was in full motion and drowned out my voice. So, I said it again, with a little (or maybe a lot) more emphasis, “SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!” My husband, who I learned later, thankfully happened to be standing at my side, immediately relayed the message to the woman who had entrapped me. She told him that, unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. The machine was programmed and couldn’t be interrupted mid-motion. To which I said, if my in-that-moment-of-hysteria mind serves me well, something like, “I don’t care about interrupting the stupid machine’s programmed treatment. I need out! NOW!”

Either by some miracle or perhaps out of a sense of desperation to save my life, much less to save her job, the woman was somehow able to deprogram the machine and release my traumatized and trembling body from its imprisonment.

Have you ever had an experience like that? A time when you felt suffocated? Stifled? Closed in? Trapped? Cornered? Dare I say, claustrophobic?

Sometimes life can feel like that, can’t it? The walls close in, decisions have to be made, expectations mount, deadlines encroach, people invade our space, pressures weigh upon our shoulders, voices of the past drown us, and demands and responsibilities overwhelm us.

The Bible has much to say about these confining conditions. In 1 Samuel 13:6 we read, “When the Israelites saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns” (NIV). Talk about cramped quarters. Think about Jesus in Gethsemane, ‘the place of crushing,’ with the weight of the world upon His shoulders. In his letter to the church in Corinth the Apostle Paul, speaking from personal experience, wrote about being hard-pressed on every side (2 Cor. 4:8).

So, what can we do to create breathing space when we’re put into tight situations? Simply, BREATHE:

Boundary setting. There is freedom within bounds, especially within the Lord’s bounds. “LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps.16:5-6, NIV).

Remove distractions. They can not only lead us away from spending time with the Lord, they also bind us and blind us from the freedom we so desire. “I am afraid, however, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your simple and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor.11:2-4b, NIV). Taking fifteen minutes to declutter our living space helps us better focus our attention on Him.

Explore your options. Making a plan, listing our goals, and setting some dates can serve rather than restrict us. It not only helps us determine our to-do list, but also reveals and makes room for events, people, and dates that are important to us. However, hold them loosely as you lay them out before the Lord. Remember, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Prov. 16:9, NLT).

Act on your thoughts. Sometimes, pressures mount, and walls close in because of our own procrastination. Rather than simply thinking, put your thoughts into action. Don’t wait to feel good before you do something; do it, and you’ll feel good. Just do it! That’s the Nike principle. Nike is Greek for “overcomer” and is mentioned several times in the Book of Revelation written “to him who overcomes.” 1 John 5:4-5 (NIV) says, “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Take your thoughts, your cares, your offenses, your relationships, and anything that is cluttering your mind, hence, clogging up your life to Jesus. In particular, forgiveness sets the prisoner free, and that prisoner could very well be you! “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5, NIV).

Humble yourself before the Lord. Ask the Lord for His help. Cry out to the Lord. That’s the best place to start! He hears our cries. Psalm 118:5 (NIV) says, "When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.” And, in Psalm 18:19 (NIV) we read, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Amen!

Edict. God is a God of order. He wants first place in our lives. Therefore, we must prayerfully determine to put the big stones in first and put first things first. Primarily, we must make our relationship with the Lord a priority. Matthew 6:33 (NIV) instructs us to, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Are you breathing yet?

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple, Dancing in the Rain, and A Ministry Survival Guide. She’s also a writer for Just Between Us Magazine, theStory, and Good Ground. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (three on earth, one in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, ON, Canada.

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