When I was in the military, I had a lot of problems with the physical aspects of the lifestyle. I’ve always been more brains than muscle, and so it was a struggle for me from day one. Given that, you can probably imagine how I felt about the PT tests we had to do periodically as Cadets. One aspect that I absolutely loathed was the 20 Metre Shuttle Run (or 20 MSR for short). This involved lines spaced 20 metres apart on the gym floor, and you ran back and forth between these lines to the tune of the “beeps”. You had to make each trip before the beep, and you did so until you were either disqualified or you collapsed.
My approach to this part of the test was just to put one foot in front of the other and go as fast I could for as long as I could. I’d set aside everything else, including breathing as deeply as possible, and just focus on that. After all, the purpose of this test was to check your endurance, right? And so I did my best and struggled through it each time. One day, after yet another slug fest with this portion of the test, a friend of mine pointed out something I’ve never forgotten. The point of the test is not just about your endurance, it’s about how your body processes oxygen. Oxygen is the fuel our bodies need, meaning that about the time I stopped focusing on my breathing, my body began to run out of gas and my struggle began. Breathing, not the exertion itself, was the key.
I’ve been reminded of this over the last couple of weeks in particular. Work has been short-staffed a bit, I’ve been trying to get more hours now that we’re trying to build a house, and the general responsibilities of life linger in the background like they always do. It’s been easy to focus just on making it through each day, going to sleep, and then waking up to do it all over again. The short version of this is that I don’t think I’ve felt this tired in a long time.
In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples (and by extension you and me), “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Without doing an extensive dissection of this passage, just look at that for a minute. What does Jesus ask of us? To abide in Him, in the same way that a branch abides in, or connects to, the vine. And what does a branch do when it’s connected to the vine? Not much. It just is. All it has to do is be connected to the vine. When we lose that, it’s not that we can do less or that things get harder. No, as Jesus tells us, we can do “nothing”.
Maybe, just maybe, all the work that we do, whether it’s church-type stuff or just getting through the days, isn’t the whole point. That’s not to say that it’s not important (if I don’t work, I don’t eat), but just that it shouldn’t consume us. In the end, the first thing Jesus asks of us is to be connected with Him, just like the first thing I had to focus on in order to succeed at the 20 MSR was breathe. Whatever else you do this weekend, whatever responsibilities you have to meet, take time to breathe.