I’m sure you’re all familiar with the idea of having a “word of the year,” right? Well, I’ve never been one to seek out a specific word even though I love the concept. I fully believe that God indeed wants to challenge us in new ways in each new season but, I hadn’t ever made this practice a part of my yearly routine. However, last December I was driving to a doctor’s appointment and the word exhale dropped into my spirit. I thought, I’m not holding my breath, I’m not anxious, I’m not upset…that was random. The word kept rolling over and over in my mind and I just began to ask the Lord, “If this is from you, what does this mean for me?” Over the next several days, weeks and months I began unpacking that word and what it’s meaning was in this season. I’m not sure I’m done understanding the fullness of it but felt compelled to start putting some words to what I’ve already realized.
The Lord showed me that since my mom’s passing, almost a year ago, with each occasion I’ve been sort of holding my breath to brace myself for how it would feel without her here. Each birthday, holiday, gathering, etc., it was like I was readying myself for the tidal wave of grief that would swallow me up. In this, I felt the Lord say, “You can breathe, it’s ok, you’re going to be ok.” I thought this was the extent of the meaning but as the weeks and months passed, I realized there was so much more behind this little word that I believe the Lord had assigned to me.
I started to dig a little about what happens to our bodies physically when we exhale. I discovered as you exhale the diaphragm relaxes and the volume of the thoracic cavity decreases, while the pressure within it increases. As a result, the lungs contract and air is forced out. When you blow air out it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS governs the relaxation response that combats stress and enables us to relax, digest nutrients, express ourselves, heal and recover from trauma and injuries (medlineplus.gov). WHAT??? When I read this, it honestly blew my mind. It was as if the Lord was saying, “I’m healing you and I’m reminding you how to facilitate this healing…just breathe and release, there is power in that releasing.”
Still continuing to understand, I dug deeper into the releasing part because it was connected and it was intriguing to me. Exhaling releases toxins, heals and gives us space to receive something new. A fresh breath, a new beginning…we have to release in order to receive. What else did I need to press into and release? Oh, why did I ask this question? No sooner than I had asked, events began to unfold that would test this releasing. Things that I had grown comfortable with would be disrupted and I would be forced back to the words….EXHALE…RELEASE. If I hold my breath, I can’t receive fresh oxygen, if I don’t let go and release things in my life, I can’t receive anything new. Sounds easy right? It’s not, it’s hard! Releasing means letting go of things and habits that I love and am comfortable with. It means being shaken and confronting the misplacement of my security. OUCH! It means leaning into the unknown of what is to come and trusting that God hasn’t forgotten about me. It means opening my hands and my heart to whatever it is God wants to do and not relying on the goodness that has been to sustain me, but believing there is more goodness yet to discover. Releasing is not my will but yours, Father. Gently exhaling and opening my hands awaiting whatever it is the Lord decides to place in them.
Exhaling and releasing are one in the same yet different. We are in fact releasing air when we exhale, so essentially exhaling is releasing. But, exhaling happens without intention, while releasing is intentional. Releasing negative thoughts, forgiveness, plans, agendas, desires and so on, well that takes willingness. We have to decide to let go, to trust and to keep going. In a meeting I was in recently, the leader said what you seek first prioritizes how you think which ultimately determines what you do. I immediately thought, “Am I seeking what God wants for me or am I seeking comfort and clinging to what I want?” I made the decision yet again to breathe….exhale and release in order to breathe in the newness that God wants to do in me and through me. I pray the same for you, I pray that you will breathe deep and as you exhale you’ll remember the power that lies in the releasing.