Last night, I dropped everything to go to a minor league baseball game. It was an act of self-defense, really. A semi-conscious realization that I had pushed too hard for too long, worked too many hours with too little sleep for too many weeks. If I wanted to maintain any kind of healthy balance, I had to get away from the temptations to keep working on one thing or another. Baseball was (and usually is) my refuge.
As we crossed the bridge into Memphis, my son let out an enormous breath. He gasped for air like a swimmer just surfacing after too long under water. He explained to me that one of his friends had taught him this game. You hold your breath as you cross a bridge. If you make it to the other side without inhaling, you get to wish for something.
“Daddy, have you played that game?” he asked.
“A few times,” I said. “But it’s hard when you’re crossing a big bridge like this one.”
“Yeah. So next time, drive a little faster, will you?”
On the way home, I upped my speed a little bit. Zachary had forgotten about the game and was busy inspecting the batting practice ball he’d found under his seat. I, on the other hand, was holding my breath.
When I play this game—and that is far more often than anyone my age should be able to admit—I almost always wish for one of two things: clarity or opportunity. Like many who follow a spiritual vocation, I often find myself in murky waters, surrounded by plenty of life but also plenty of danger. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way to turn. Even when I have a good idea of where I should end up, I can’t always see how to get there.
And so I hold my breath as I cross bridges and wish for clarity and opportunity. I want to know what to do, or at least to know what is really going on around me. And I want as many chances as possible to impact the world in which I live for the good.
Simple enough, right? Well, yes. And no. Like I said, I live out my vocation in a thick swirl of complexity.
Just when I thought Zachary had forgotten all about the bridge game, he asked another question.
“Does that holding your breath thing really mean you get what you wish for?”
“No,” I answered.
“But you do it anyway?”
“And it helps?”
“A little. It helps me understand what I want a little better. I usually wish for things that are important to me.”
“Well I think it works,” he said. He held up his baseball so I could see it through the rearview mirror. “I got my wish.”
I laughed and told him that was good and wished for the billionth time that the things I often seek were so readily found. They are not. They are more than wishes for me. They are prayers. And only occasionally are they answered. Still, every now and again, I glimpse them, even though I cannot grasp them. And I am thankful for the glimpses when they come. They are enough to bring me back to my senses, to point out to me that I’ve been holding my breath in waiting, and it’s time to breathe again.