Lou, are you breathing?!
On our answering machine when we arrived home one time years ago:
Lou: I guess they’re not home.
Fran: I wonder where they are.
Lou: Yeah. [Pause. Chuckles} I suppose she’ll hear this.
Fran: Mavis, it’s your mom and dad. Call us when you get home.
Over the years, my phone calls were often with both of them at the same time — each on an extension (back in the days of landlines). Every once in a while they’d get into a discussion or argument with each other. I’d think, “Um, do I really need to be here?” as they went back and forth.
Every so often, on these 3-way phone calls, Mom would suddenly say, in a disgusted tone, “Lou, are you breathing?!” Mom never seemed to realize that the person on a phone extension sounded extra loud to the person on the other extension. Sometimes she would hear chewing and say, “Lou, are you eating something?” and Dad would guiltily confess he was. But when she asked if he was breathing, it kind of confounded him. “Well, yes, I am. I have to breathe.” I would laugh and tell Mom that I didn’t hear anything, it was okay.
I’ve written before about Aslan’s breath in The Chronicles of Narnia. Jill rode his breath to a new location. He brought back to life the people and animals who the wicked queen made into statues. He also used his tongue. He would lick someone to show his love, often when a character came felt shame and guilt in a face-to-face encounter.
I have to say this whole thing of breathing and licking would normally totally gross me out. I take after my mother in that hearing people breathe near me gives me the creeps. When the kids — or Randy, or anyone — try to read over my shoulder, I say, “Don’t breathe near me!” And licking. Oh my goodness. I am like Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon. Seeing a dog lick a person nearly makes me gag. And don’t even make me think about being licked myself!
But I love the images of Aslan’s breath, and of his tongue providing gentle reassurance. In the Bible when Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection, it says,
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21–23)
What does that look like? Jesus breathing on them? I don’t know, but somehow it’s beautiful. I think it’s symbolic of Jesus’ promise to send them the Holy Spirit, the great comforter, which happens later after he ascends to heaven. It reminds me of the spirit hovering over chaos in the Genesis story. (I’ve written about that before, too.)
And who can resist the overwhelming feeling of joy in watching a baby breathe? That little chest going up and down, that tiny puff of exhaled air, the quiet inhale. Breath is a sign of life. Jesus breathed on his disciples and they knew he was alive again.
A reminder to “just breathe” and be grateful in this weird, worrisome time. Thank God for his breath, for his life, for my breath, for my life, for your breath, for your life. With every breath you take, Jesus loves you. Peace be with you.
Originally published at http://www.mavismoon.com.