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If I Stop Breathing

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

I had a memorable experience last week that made me realize again how fragile life is. We were taking a few emergency supplies over to some friends who were in need during the near-zero weather. Their water pipes were frozen and they were running out of propane.

We headed to their house with a small propane tank plus a couple gallons of water and other supplies. Their driveway was drifted deep with snow so we parked at the edge of the road. I started out carrying the water through the snow, and about halfway our friend met me and then took the water to the house. Meanwhile, I returned to our truck to get the propane tank, slogging through the snow to meet him again.

While he went to hook up the tank, I rested a moment. The extremely cold air was making my throat a little sore, and I tried to breathe very shallow breaths to keep my lungs from getting too much of the cold air. Then I carried the remaining gallon of milk and an electric blanket up to their front door. I climbed the five steps up to the landing.

Then I stopped to snap my coat hood to better cover my mouth, but it was too late. As I turned to go back down the steps I got so weak my legs collapsed under me and I felt I was “greying out.” I just sat down and curled up. Mary Ann, watching from the road, told me later it was a couple minutes of pure fear for her before our friend reappeared and tried to help me stand up. But he couldn’t get me up. He began to yell at me to arouse me. I could hear him, but I just couldn’t do anything. Then a moment later, a man appeared who reached out and took hold of me. I didn’t know who he was at the time, except that he was young and strong. Mary Ann had flagged down his truck and asked him for help, while at the same time she was talking with 911.

With both of them holding me up, they nudged me along toward the road and our warm pickup.

By this time, I was more alert and told my friend to get back into his house, because he is partly disabled, and I knew he should not be out any longer. The stranger kept asking me if I was all right or did I want to go to the hospital. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so anxious about me, since I was standing in my own strength, although feeling exhausted. Mary Ann cancelled the 911 call she had made, and after a few minutes we headed home

A couple days later I visited my doctor. He said I had experienced a respiratory reflex response, or lung spasm. This is the deadly kind of thing that threatens people who have severe asthma. He explained that after having expended a lot of energy carrying the supplies through the snow, my restricted breathing was not providing enough oxygen. Then, at the same time my respiratory system reacted to the cold air and cut off. With insufficient oxygen, I was losing consciousness.

Two observations come to mind about this startling experience. First, I am so grateful that God sent the man along to help at the right time, or else the outcome might have been much worse. Second, failing to breathe, I was starving my mind and body, and likewise, when I fail to breathe in God’s Spirit regularly through his Word and prayer, I am starving that part of me, too. So I want to keep breathing deeply, both oxygen and God’s life-giving Spirit!

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