“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7
I CAN’T BREATHE!
Those were the last words of George Floyd as he lay on pavement with the knee of a police officer upon his neck. For about nine minutes, the police officer held his knee upon Floyd’s neck, three of which is reported that he had no pulse. He died of asphyxiation. This latest video of the killing of an unarmed black man by a police officer went viral. The shock waves sparked protests on the national front, as well as internationally. The outcry has been stranger than any I’ve ever seen. The voices of those who have been silent have found volume.
The country is in chaos.
Coincidentally, we are still in the middle of a pandemic. COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is still in full effect, and in fact on the rise. I just lost a childhood friend because of the virus. The pandemic is still alive and well, even as the nation grapples with continued racial disparities and injustices.
I repeat, the country is in chaos.
The parallels between the pandemic and the “I CAN’T BREATHE” protests are bone chilling.
The definition of COVID-19 is explained here from WebMD
“COVID-19 is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 that can trigger what doctors call a respiratory tract infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs).”
In many cases, it’s been reported that the virus simply overtakes the lungs. Those who have to be hospitalized are in many cases placed on a ventilator. The struggle becomes the ability to breathe.
I CAN’T BREATHE!
Do you think the the collision of these two events are coincidental? I think not.
I just completed a section of study on the respiratory system in my herbal studies. Traditional medicine often separates physical ailments from psychological ailments. Treatment for the two are often done independently. In holistic care, the two are often treated with respect to each other. In some cultural herbal medicine practices, it is thought that grief is carried in the lungs.
Have you ever considered your breath? Each minute, we breathe about ten to fifteen times. Our nostrils inhale the environment from the outside and bring it into our body. Here the oxygen is extracted for cellular use and the waste expelled as carbon dioxide.
“We are as much what we breathe as what we eat. Polluted cities have polluted people.” Heart of Herbs Master Herbalist Certification Program, Section One, page 422; Demetria Clark.
What is your breath like? Is it controlled? Is it rushed? Does it feel complete? How do you feel when you breathe? What are we breathing?
Our breathing can indicate what may be going on physically. A panting can indicate a panic attack or a struggle for the lungs to retrieve the necessary oxygen for survival. Can the physical ramifications of COVID-19 also indicate what could be happening underneath the skin? As the body struggles for air, so does the soul . The soul echoes what it has been saying for centuries and what the COVID-19 body and George Floyd are saying:
I CAN’T BREATHE!
It is 6am on a Friday morning. Tractor girl sits outside in her garden with a cup of coffee. The gentle morning breeze urges her to unclench the teeth, relax the jaw, spread the corners of the mouth and breathe. She continues to unpack a life built under oppression.
As layers and layers of covert and overt racial oppression are peeled back, tractor girl realizes “I CAN'T BREATHE! Spending years in management subconsciously dealing with systemic racism, she realizes that for many years there has been a foot on her neck, restricting breath. This period of time has caused her to look a that the many ways she has not been able to breathe. Always considered as not good enough, working extra hard to try and compete at the level of white, male counterparts, working in positions paid at least thirty to forty percent less, denied access to certain privileges and programs, the list goes on and on.
For decades, she has operated under oppression. The reality of it all is exhausting, yet liberating. She is ever so slowly releasing the grip and giving the reigns over to YHWH, allowing YHWH to lead so that she truly breathe.
Tractor girl tries to chart the new normal, tries to figure out what is supposed to be. How does one come out from the umbrella of not measuring up? A lifetime of shattering glass ceilings only to realize there are more to shatter.
The moment is surreal. As assertive and as strong-willed as tractor girl is, she has yet to find her voice. A voice unencumbered by oppression. The voice intended when YHWH breathed the breath of life into her.
This past voice has not been her voice. This past voice was shaped and molded by suppression and oppression. The voice that thought it had to be harsh, tough, rigid and loud, just to be heard.
Gratitude fills the moment for tractor girl. Thankful for the revelation. Thankful for the pulling back of the covers, if you will. Thankful for the “ah-ha” moment to become her more true and authentic self.
Old mindsets are changing. The slave mentality loosing its grip. We are released from the mentality of oppression, and must take a firm grasp on the mind renewed in The Spirit. We can find our breath. The process is slow. We must rid ourselves of the toxic air that has slowly asphyxiated us. We breathe life anew. We take the breath given by The Creator from the very beginning. That breath that made us a living soul.
The moment is pivotal. Life will never be the same again.
I pray for fresh breath in our lives, in our homes, in our communities and in our churches.