Invitation to Breathe



The door creaks as I slowly open it. Light floods the dark room as I carefully tiptoe towards his bed. I reach for the toy flashlight and turn it off. I take away the plastic light-up turtle and place it quietly on the bedside table. Pulling his covers up, I let my eyes pause on his face and it hits me like a ton of bricks. Love.

Still. Serene. Breath rises and releases. His sleeping-self contradicts everything about his awake-self. The mess of energy, words, movement, needs, and desires is at peace and he is in want of nothing. Time cradles him and I watch in wonder, crouched next to his bed.

I still remember the sleepless nights.  The impulse would come over me, driven by love and mixed with a healthy dose of fear, and I would reach out my arm, silently and slowly, to rest my hand on his chest. The myriad of external voices from parenting websites and internal voices from the depths warned me that this little life was fragile. As mother, I was to be always cautious, attentive, and on-edge that there could come a moment when his breath might be too fast or too slow or no more.

At three months old, it still was a fragile untested love – full of little sleep, little confidence, paralyzing vulnerability, overwhelming uncertainty, and overwhelming joy.

Three years later, it is more of a resilient robust love – full of tight hugs after falls, laughter over race-car noises, discipline over bad choices, snuggling while singing bedtime songs, and conversations with my grown-up boy.

I crawl into my own bed and say goodbye to the day. I check the monitor and stare at the pajamas on the youngest – trying to detect the movement of his breath in and out.  Passed out from an early bedtime (the occupational hazard of residency), my husband’s breathing hums me to sleep. I imagine his mother, hand stretched into the crib to feel the breath rising and falling in his chest. I imagine her crouched beside his bed to wonder at the little boy energy at rest.

After over ten years together, it is a steadfast sustaining love – full of long days of service in each of our vocational callings, front door glee from the boys when he walks in, smiles shared over the blessings in our life, and nightly gifts of encouragement, support, and listening ears.

“The Spirit is God’s breath, bringing us into intimate communion. God, by the Spirit, dwells within you – has a home within your heart and mine…So it is that, through this gift of God’s Spirit, we are transformed into temples of the sacred.”   – Henri Nouwen

So when the night falls and my energy wanes, I receive the final invitation of the day – to marvel at the mystery before me. May I be a mother, a spouse, a minister, a friend, a human being who practices the spiritual discipline of WONDER. In amazement, I pause and stand in awe over the sacred temples for which I been invited to nurture and cherish.

And I hear the invitation to breathe. In and out. Air around me. Life within me. Love abounds.

3 thoughts on “Invitation to Breathe

    • ccharston

      Its from a Lenten devotional book we’ve been using, so I’m not exactly sure. The devotional pulls from Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and “Home Tonight” so would be in one of these.

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