Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! – Psalm 150:6a (NIV)
It was a scary “no news is good news” kind of trip to the hospital. My chest pain was not a heart attack—could have been several other things—stress test was fine. “Now we have a baseline.” Sounds good, but all the time I was there, my blood pressure was bananas. Every time I heard the machines wind up, I felt my anxiety rise, too. I had to remind myself to breathe.
I came home with a change in prescription, and I finally started doing what my primary care provider had told me to do a while ago: check my blood pressure every day. Twice a day, actually. I poured over the manual for the monitor. If I had to do this thing, I wanted to do it right. I strategized the best location in my house and read more instructions. Don’t take it as soon as you get out of bed. Check. Move around and start your day, but if you eat breakfast first, you have to wait 30 minutes. (Just like swimming?) Okay.
Above all else, sit quietly for five minutes before you use the machine.
Trying to settle myself in the chair, a timer set, I realized I was holding my breath, dreading the sound the machine would make and the numbers I would see on the screen. Maybe, I thought, I should try breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. One breath at a time. My breath became prayer, asking for God’s presence and a sense of calm. I felt my chest rise, and my breath deepen. When the timer went off, I was ready.
O God, I have breath, and I will praise you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen.
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, from The Pilgrim Press.