Learning to Breathe

The playground was filled with big third graders. I missed being on the first-grade playground where I felt safe. Second graders had been moved to the main Tremont School campus and recess was now an uncertain time where older third graders roamed. I ran to the swing set and Sally yelled at me to “wait up!” I turned to wave and moved quickly to get my swing, and as I turned, a boy grabbed my swing and flung it towards my head.  

I fell to the ground. I tried to breathe, but I could not. I was frozen to the blacktop! I heard girls screaming and boys laughing! Next, a teacher was asking me if I was okay. A gulp of air barely filled my lungs, and my stomach felt on fire.  

The teacher helped me up and escorted me to the nurse’s office. The nurse said, “You have a goose egg!” I had no idea what she meant, but it seemed to me that I better go back to my classroom for reading group. I stood at her sink to wash my hands, and that’s when I saw myself in the mirror and started to cry. I did have a “goose egg” on my forehead! The nurse called my mom to pick me up. 

This memory came back after hearing someone I considered to be a friend accuse my husband and others in leadership of being toxic and corrupt. I was knocked to the ground, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. 

No one needs to tell me that my husband needs the convicting and comforting work of the Holy Spirit. He can be difficult and complex, but I have watched for almost five decades how he has fought and cared for others, often at great cost to himself.   

It used to be “sex sells;” now, hatred is the new currency that allows people to get followers on social media. Hate makes alliances with others looking for connection. Hate bonds people more than love. This season’s first episode of Saturday Night Live talked about how people are “crazy, filled with anger, and are inches away from the edge.” We are all living in a world where to be a leader or offer an opinion sets one up for a barrage of vitriol. It takes my breath away. 

Since the pandemic in 2020, surveys show nearly eighty percent of pastors would leave their work within a year if they had the alternative of an equally well-paying job. As Dan has begun traveling again, most of the leaders he has engaged have similar stories of being knocked to the ground by people who they once served and loved. We are living in a hate-filled world that often justifies violence by self-serving claims of promoting justice.  

I love to breathe. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which means breath. God made humanity with clay and breathed into the clay with the breath of life. 

One doesn’t need a second wind unless the first has been knocked out of you. 

A second wind doesn’t come easily or without its own disruption of the body. It is easier, as I remembered, to lay still on the playground blacktop and surrender to not breathing. It is only when someone asks, “Are you okay?” that it becomes clear that I am not okay. 

However, I am well. As a seventy-year-old woman, a mother of three adult children and six grandchildren, I am working alongside my husband like never before. It’s exhilarating to not be sitting in the back row but speaking alongside him on stage. I have learned through yoga to hold poses and breathe through the noise with another sun salutation. I can breathe the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. As much as I question the craziness of our polarized, hate-filled day, I know my body will be restored despite the pain. That old goose egg on my head has long gone away. I choose to get back on my swing and breathe.  

Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 44 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting, and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! b