I came home from heaven in the soul-sapping heat of late summer. I could see my plans in the distance like glass castles, big and bold and shining and so much more fragile than they looked. I tripped over myself in my haste to move in, and as my stumbling footsteps shook the ground the foundations cracked and the tiers and towers crumbled under their own weight. The shock and shaking threw me to the ground and knocked the air from my lungs.
“Breathe,” He said, but I couldn’t hear His voice over the shattering.
I picked up the biggest pieces and stacked them in grotesque, jagged arrangements as high as I could until they fell again. I cursed and spat in the dust as the edges cut my hands and my heart, and I mixed the dust and the spit and the blood and the curses with furious hands. I used the mud for mortar, but it only served to smear the glass – my towers would not stand, and soon the only pieces left were too small to hold. I sat in the ruins and screamed about injustice and remorse until I choked on my own words.
“Breathe,” He said, but what did He know?
I glared at Him across the plain of shards and took one deep breath – in, but not out. I puffed out my cheeks and my chest and arranged the fragments on the ground into words. “I’M GOING TO HOLD MY BREATH UNTIL YOU FIX IT,” I threatened. “I WANT IT BACK JUST THE WAY IT WAS.”
He bent down and drew one word in the dirt by his feet. I knew what it was before I saw it, but I stood to look anyway.
“Breathe,” He wrote, and the tears in his eyes shimmered like broken glass in the sun.
I felt the air turn from life to poison inside my lungs, draining my strength and forcing me to my knees. As my vision tilted and blurred and dimmed I saw a shape rushing toward me. He gathered me into His arms and struggled to hold my shaking body as I fought against myself to hold my burning breath hostage.
“Breathe,” He whispered, but I had forgotten how.
I slid down into darkness, and all of my complaints and fears and frustrations lost their hold on my mind until I was left with just one thought: what a waste, to throw away your future over the loss of something that never existed. With the last of my strength I opened my mouth, but my lungs remained still. I thought I felt something – a finger, perhaps, on my lips, and from an impossible distance I heard a shout ring out.
“BREATHE!” He screamed, and light blazed through the abyss.
Air tore through me in rasping, desperate waves, and my heart rushed to make up for the beats it had missed. I struggled to my feet, His strong arms supporting me, and I took one last look at the remains of my grandiose plans. They seemed pale and insubstantial in the stark light of day – scraps of dirty rags on unholy ground, hardly worth fighting for – and it was the easiest thing in the world to turn away.
Past the edge of my fallen little world I saw a breathtaking expanse of peaks and valleys, trees and plains, light and shadow and possibility, unspeakably beautiful and stretching out into forever. He stood in the space between the disaster and the divine, and He held out His hand.
“Come,” He said, and His voice was still and small and irresistible.
I ran to meet Him across the plain of shards, and as I took His hand I drew one deep breath – in and then out. The air was cool and clean out there, heavy with the scent of life and growth, and with every breath the weight on my soul grew lighter.
It had never felt so good just to breathe.