I stopped at the grocery store on Monday to pick up a couple gallons of milk and a box of laundry detergent. On my very brief trip through the aisles, I had to maneuver — twice — around motorized wheelchairs bearing other shoppers with oxygen tanks. Granted, our area is known for a high percentage of retirees, but it seems like I see more and more people having trouble breathing. And it’s not just the altitude.

Dr. Harry Kraus, in his book Breathing Grace, describes patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or emphysema as those who have a long-standing partial obstruction to the flow of oxygen in and out of the lungs. This results in higher levels of carbon dioxide in the body. Normally when a person has too much CO2 or can’t get enough oxygen, the body naturally starts breathing faster to compensate. (CO2 out, O2 in.) But in people with COPD or emphysema, their bodies have become used to the higher levels of CO2 … and they don’t breathe faster. So, they need a higher percentage of oxygen in the air they breathe.
They have lost their sensitivity to the carbon dioxide — the very substance depriving them of the oxygen their bodies really need to survive.
What about us? We, too, can lose our sensitivity to sin and its consequences. We tolerate higher levels than we should in our lives. In the name of political correctness or tolerance or justification or self-righteous comparisons with others, we don’t give up the very behaviors keeping us from boundless supply of grace. We don’t see that we keep slipping into sin more and more often.
The solution to spiritual emphysema? Repentance. Turning away from self-serving behaviors. Looking at ourselves before judging our neighbors. But mostly focusing on the One who gives freely to those who ask.
What about you? Have you lost your sensitivity to sin? Why? Has it diminished your perceived need for grace?
Spiritual Emphysema
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