I’ve struggled with exercise-induced asthma since I was a teenager. Well, I didn’t struggle with it a whole lot unless I was doing something really active, and up until a few years ago that wasn’t much! Seasonal allergies seemed to make it worse as well. This was a major hurdle I needed to face as I took up running and I did so armed with inhalers and determination.
It wasn’t until last year, when meeting with a new doctor, that I learned something about the way my breathing works that could help me avoid these asthmatic symptoms while running. She told me when I was feeling like I couldn’t take a full, deep breath, I needed to try to blow out as much air as possible. I won’t say anything technically or medically right here, but basically the “old” air in my lungs was leaving no room for “new” air. I needed to focus more on the exhale before I tried to get a good inhale.
I was skeptical at first, but, for me, it really does work. I still don’t feel like my breathing is normal, especially while running, but I am much more able to control it when I concentrate on “out with the old, in with the new.”
This is the rhythm I find in life and faith as well. I like to start new things. These new things are usually good things, meant to help me with time management or my prayer life or loving my family better. But in the process, I often hold on to the old, even if just by a thread, because it feels comfortable, familiar, non-threatening.
Trying to add new to my life while holding on to the old leaves me gasping for air, desperate for a full, refreshing breath. Getting up early to spend more time with the Lord before everyone wakes up doesn’t work so well when I hold on to the comfort of late nights reading or watching TV. Frustration sets in quickly when I make up a new schedule but let the old time-wasting habits hang around.
Our pastor spoke this weekend on the ways the enemy seduces us, gradually drawing us away from God with things we don’t consider sins. We rationalize these things as not harmful even though they distract us from relationship with God. We need to recognize the seduction and repent of our part in it, but the last step was the key and the one that really got me. Replacement. Get the old, self-centered, time-wasting, worldly ways out and fill in that space with the true, real, satisfying pleasures of God.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ~Galatians 5:16
It really is not enough for us to just take on the new. Colossians 3 is often quoted for its verses about putting on the virtues of love, compassion, kindness, and so on, but do you know what comes before that? Paul FIRST asks the people of Colossae to put to death the old – all manner of evil, impure things. It is only after the old is gone that the new can be put on.
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. ~Colossians 3:5-10 12-15
When it feels heavy to put on the virtues of Christ, it is usually because we haven’t let go of the things of old yet. Layering kindness on top of bitterness or envy just feels fake and stifling. Stuffing down anger with pretend patience won’t feel refreshing in any way.
This week, as we draw closer to the time set aside to remember our Savior’s death for my sins, I’m reexamining my repentance of old and choosing to clean house in my soul. I need to make room for more of Him and that means getting rid of the sins, the time-wasters, the unnecessary. And in it’s place will be the best kind of new – the new things of Him refreshing, restoring, and continuing the good works He has planned for me.