Take My Breath Away isn’t just a romantic song from the 1980’s. Have you ever been in a predicament where you were gasping for air? And if you didn’t get oxygen, then you felt like you were going to die? I have! I’ve felt this a couple of times in my life. One time, when I was about eight or nine years old, I went swimming and I ended up in the deep side of the pool. It was so deep that I slowly started to look around for help. As I began to drift away, I began to go under the water and before you know it. I was doggy-paddling while gasping and wheezing for air and there it was. I realized that I couldn’t breathe…
I can’t breathe…
I can’t breathe…
I can’t breathe…
These were the words from George Floyd, an African American man who was a follower of Jesus. He uttered these words on May 25th, 2020 as a white male police officer arrested him and put his knee to his neck while being on the ground. For minutes the officer held his knee to his neck and there it was. He said it. He said it multiple times. “I can’t breathe.”
We have all had our own reactions to the death of George Floyd. Austin Suter shared his last week and expressed rage and despair. To be honest, as a black man hearing of yet another black man killed by law-enforcement, I had a slightly different reaction. I felt both numbed and overwhelmed. Numbed because we have seen this movie before. How many more times can we see a sequel before we become jaded and numb because we have seen the ending too many times before? Only this movie is all too real. It’s called, “The Life of Black Folks in America!”
I felt overwhelmed because every time there is a tragedy, no matter how many times we hear of the unfortunate circumstances, we feel like we’re sinking. Many thoughts run through our heads, but we still have to take a step back to try and breathe. Many of us feel like after each police murder of unarmed black folks our breath is being taken away. Body after body. Person after person. Image-bearer after image-bearer. Eric Garner. George Floyd.
In Psalm 13:1-2, King David laments to God. He cries out to God with his present circumstances:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
I don’t claim to have a monopoly on how we should respond to these feelings. But at least one way should be to recapture the spiritual discipline of lamenting. Take your grief, frustration, and fear to your Father. Lament helps us become real with our authentic selves and to talk with our heavenly Father when we feel something is wrong. God is personal. He sees us. He feels our pain. He hears our cry. We can come to him boldly with any question or thought we have because we are children of God. That’s why when we pray, we say, “Our Father who is in heaven.” We have a covenant relationship with Him and can be brutally honest about our hurts and feelings. When we hear George Floyd moan, “I can’t breathe,” we can cry like King David, “How Long, O LORD”?
- Pray that as a people we can recapture the spiritual practice of lament.
- Pray for justice to be served.
- Pray for the family of George Floyd.
- Pray for the black community as they have faced many tragedies and trauma at the hands sinful police officers.
- Pray for the city of Minneapolis (and other cities in America).