We just returned from a week in Orland, Florida. My parents treated their grandkids and us to a week at a fancy resort and Disney World adventures. In the midst of meeting Mickey, visiting Hogwarts Castle, riding roller coasters and carrying tired kids and their souvenirs for miles in the hot sun, we also had time to relax by the pools at the resort.
I knew this would not be a rejuvenating kind of a vacation relaxing in a hammock with a book and sipping umbrella drinks. Still, I did squeeze in many walks around the lake on the path and boardwalk of the resort while listening to my audio book.
One friendly creature anyone from the north immediately notices when they visit the tropical south are the little lizards scurrying about on the sidewalks and railings. I learned a valuable lesson from these lizards this week. Actually, it was the expert from Gatorland who share this fascinating factoid that I’ve been pondering all week.
“Have you ever noticed how they run a few feet, stop abruptly, then run another couple feet, stop again?” He asked. “Why don’t they just keep running until they are safely off the path and in the bushes?” Good question. He continued, “The reason is quite simple: these lizards literally cannot breathe and run at the same time. They have to stop moving in order to draw a breathe.” Hmmm.
Quite an observation for a guy whose been reading and thinking and teaching a lot about the contemplative tradition of Christianity lately. A powerful picture to ponder for a person trying to stop running for a moment and take a deep breath in the midst of a critical ministry season.
Biological realities have a way of getting their point across in ways that ethical and moral realities just can’t. I am sure the poor lizard trying to flee a predator finds his inability to run and breathe at the same time a bit of an inconvenience! If his brain was more evolved, I’m sure he would reflect on his existential crisis and possibly drift into a depression and wallow in self pity. “Why me!” But he is forced to do his best with this biological fact.
The Sacred Scriptures reveal a divine design for human flourishing that requires us to stop running at regular intervals in order to breathe and properly recharge our batteries. We are designed to run hard for six days, and then stop and breathe every seventh. The difficulty is many of us continually ignore this “divine design” and often don’t suffer any immediate and/or visible consequences. Meanwhile, the lizard who ignores his biological design and keeps running and running and running, eventually dies for lack of oxygen. His unwillingness to stop moving literally suffocates him.
Beloved, people are spiritually suffocating all around us every day. We need to learn the lesson of the lizard and stop running and breathe more. What does stopping to breathe look like for you? What are your telltale signs that you are spiritually/emotionally suffocating? How might you begin to stop each week and observe a sabbath day of rest? Or, to paraphrase Jesus’ pointed question, “What good is it to get ahead in the world, if you suffocate your soul in the process” (Mark 8:36 my paraphrase).