A recurring dream I have had for several years is of being able to breathe underwater. I’m not caught in a flood or tidal wave or storm. I haven’t fallen into some water by accident. No, instead I am calmly floating somewhere far down in the ocean, not struggling to get to the top or anything like that. Then I think to myself, “Well, I’m here. I suppose I ought to try to breathe.” And I do. And that’s it. End of dream.

If only I could solve real-life problems so calmly and easily!

The past year has many of us feeling like we’re in over our heads – drowning in bills, drowning in work, drowning in the chaos from Washington, drowning in hurt feelings and guilt, drowning in the everyday to-do list.

People who have nearly drowned (the real thing, with water) describe terrifying moments of panic, feeling out of control, waving arms and legs furiously but getting nowhere. Then, as they are able to hold their breath no longer, their body panics and breathes. Water painfully fills their lungs, and they black out.

“Breathing underwater” is not about flailing about and wasting our strength. Neither is it about giving up and letting the depths take us.

To “breathe underwater” is to recognize that we are in too deep. It means basing decisions not on panic but on calmly taking stock of the situation. It means acknowledging that we are not in control of everything that impacts us. And it means trusting something beyond ourselves.

In January, we will explore the depths of the ocean in which we find ourselves. Together we will learn ways to “breathe underwater.” And as a community of faith, we will breathe for one another, even as the Spirit breathes for all of us.

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