Breathing is so hard.
My legs, tired and heavy, like running in quicksand, though my phone registers six miles. And still, no relief. I shake my ponytail and turn the bend in the road, determined to push harder, push faster against the pressure weighing me down. Keep running. Run till all this wrong is made right. You haven’t earned rest yet.
It’s a fight against tired legs and a turbulent mind and I’m losing. Approaching the final hill, I give up and slow to a walk. I’m suffocating and finally the tears I’ve been choking back spill out, mixing with the salty sweat on my cheeks. Will the struggle never end?
Why is breathing so hard?
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
We have been carrying some heavy loads lately, my man and me. It is good, raw good, because our hearts are being bared to each other. We are digging deep into the stuff that makes us who we are, uncovering lifetimes worth of pain and hidden, dusty, secret things are brought to light for the first time. But the descaling, it hurts. It exposes.
And we find that our two souls, straining for connection, are too weak to hold each other up.
“I need help!”
“I know. But how can I help you when I myself am so in need? If I jump in to save you, we both may drown.”
It is the recurring theme of human story: the longing for a hero. We all crave rescue.
And I try, I try so hard to be a hero. Prove to myself that I can handle this life, that if I run hard enough and with enough determination, it will all be okay. “We all secretly love a gospel that relies on us…Self-reliance feeds our self-esteem and self-worth.”* But the air is too thin on top of this pedestal I’ve created. And breathless, I’m looking around for something more.
He is sitting in the row in front of us as communion plates pass from needy hand to needy hand. Last night we met him at the neighborhood laundromat. We, with our friends, dropped quarters in his machines. We handed him a warming bowl of homemade chili and shared life stories as dryers hummed. And now, here he is, breaking bread again with us this Sunday morning.
Part of me is scared. I didn’t expect him to be here. What do we do now? It is easy to pay a man’s laundry and give him a hot meal, but his needs are oh so much greater. And I feel my insufficiency keenly.
He turns, hands me the plate of broken bread and smiles. And I am reminded. What is communion if not a reminder of our – all of our – need? It’s the promise that God is working behind the scenes, accomplishing His will and redeeming our stories while we live out our finite human lives. Communion is the victory cry “Tetelestai!”
Tetelestai. It means “it is finished.” To complete, conclude, fill up, accomplish, fully pay. Not merely to end, but to perfect. The will of God accomplished. The prophecies and promises fulfilled, sin put to death, suffering redeemed to glory. Salvation complete. Jesus poured out every last breath in securing our rescue and said “Tetelestai.”
All our failed attempts to fix our broken world, our ragtag tries to perform our way to God, our inadequate efforts to fill our own cup of need – all finished in the completed death and resurrected victory of Jesus.
Jesus was our hero when He gave us Himself. The greatest sacrifice, to secure our safety. A horrible, forsaken, tormenting death that met, measure for measure, the murderous extent of our sin. He accomplished the greatest victory on His own and then He gives the rewards away…to me, who has down nothing to help myself. Now He supports my every breath, He redeems the good I try to do, He rescues me from collapsing in my own futility.
I need Him. And oh, how I need to need Him.
Who will rescue me from this body of death? The One who became my body of death.
After the elements are passed, all us needy people stand together to sing:
“All our sickness, all our sorrows Jesus carried up the hill
He has walked this path before us, He is walking with us still.
Turning tragedy to triumph, Turning victory to praise
There is blessing in the battle – So take heart and stand amazed.”*
Giving my own rescue to Jesus means I am freed to help others without their rescue being dependent on me.
I can buy a steaming coffee for the homeless man shivering outside the grocery store. I can listen to a grieving friend. I can donate to a missionary family, I can make a meal, fold laundry, send a handwritten letter, do any thousand acts of kindness and service — not because my self-sufficiency, but because kindness flows from the grateful heart dependent on the sufficiency of Christ. We are free to love freely. Empowered to meet the hurt we see in the world because we have known the greatest Rescue. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.”
You are the light of the world – Jesus is saying “I am the Light of the World.” It is by the light of Jesus that we are the light of the world. We are a lamp, not the Sun. We are not the source, just a vessel holding that light.
We stay up late into the dark night with our two bare and cut up hearts. Our two flickering lights…when we lean them together and lean into the Flame, there is enough warmth and illumination to press on. We are only reflections, he and I, of the grace penetrating past our darkness. We can only support each other when we’re attached to the lifeline of the Gospel. We only have air to speak truth when our lungs are filled by Jesus.
Gently, Jesus is teaching me. Don’t try to be anybody’s hero. Especially your own. Press your own weary needy heart into His always sufficient heart.
Early morning, I scribble it down. Big bold letters in thick black ink across the journal page: Let Jesus be your hero!
Fix your eyes on Jesus. He sees your need, He knows your need, He has met your need on His own broken body. It is finished.
Stop your running and let your feet be planted in the Love that’s saved your soul. Fix your eyes on Him – the Author and the Finisher of your faith. And the weight you are carrying, that burden of being your own hero? You can lay it down. And you can breath – breath deeply – the grace, the freedom, the rest of your Rescue.
Scripture in order of appearance: Romans 7:24, Galatians 2:20, Matthew 5:14, John 8:12, Hebrews 12
*Quotes: Marshall Sefal, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-our-hearts-revert-to-self-reliance, “Rejoice” by Dustin Kensrue, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8u0pGvb30U