How to Breathe.

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The deer have gotten used to me, I think.

I’ve been running past them for two weeks or so now, early in the morning, when the sun is just starting to peek out over the lake, and filter gracefully through the oaks.  They’ve  stopped darting across the street when they hear me coming, and now, stand quietly, looking curiously as I go past.

My little feet hit the asphalt and my breath hitches in my chest.

The whole purpose of this particular form of exercise is less for the five pounds I’d love to lose, and more for my lungs.

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This recovering asthmatic wants to breathe.

The enemy likes to attack my breathing. In college, when panic attacks were common, he’d come in and steal my air, sucking it from my throat with an unholy vacuum. For years, I’ve tried to hide the tightness lingering in my chest, sucking in deep breaths just to feel them filled to capacity for even a second.

In all my years of doctors’ visits for chest exams–the kind where they had me blow as hard as I could into a little tube marked with little lines, gauging how strong my lungs are–no one has ever found anything wrong with me. Not medically, anyway.

When asked if I liked to run–a question I get a lot, strangely enough, I’d laugh and give a practiced response, “Honey, I don’t run unless something’s chasing me.”

That was the fear talking. What I meant was that I thought I actually might like to run, to do anything seriously active, if my lungs would cooperate. I never played competitive sports for just this reason.

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It wasn’t until the World Race that I even considered it might be spiritual, and then not once did I think there was anything I could do about it. My panic attacks–the most violents of them anyway–were gone. I’d been healed of those, but the difficulty breathing remained.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a high-stress weekend, I found myself kneeling on my bedroom floor, gasping, trying to force in air. Nothing came. I felt the familiar feel of suffocation and found that the only words to mouth were, Jesus, please.

And then there was air. Lots of air, in fact. My lungs filled up and stayed filled up. I could breathe.

Jesus, please.

In a prayer, I realized how much hold the enemy has on my physicality. He’s kept my lungs in his clenched fist, and I’ve felt powerless to get them back, to get them working the way I believe they should. But Christ didn’t just come for my sins. He came so I would be healed, body, mind, spirit and soul. So that all of me would be reconciled to Him.

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The Tuesday after this last attack, I went running for the first time. I laced up my red Merril tennis shoes and pulled on my boyfriends sweatshirt. And with my heart beating a little too fast, I took my first shaky steps out the door.

One minute on, one minute off. That’s how this particular “start-to-run” plan works. So one minute at a time, I ran, waiting for the minute where my lungs would sieze and refuse to work.

It never came.

I’m two weeks into this running plan, with about six to go. It’s training for a 5k run, which, in the grand scheme of things, is nothing. But to me, right now, it’s something. It’s a big something. It’s a big victory.

It’s taking back something the enemy stole from me. It’s reclaiming territory that he’s been illegally camping out on for a really long time. Let’s be real, it’s been fun to watch him run in terror.

Because this time, I get to chase him.

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