Let it Breathe

Every morning I receive a handful of emails from sites I’ve subscribed to. I get my morning news from the Skimm, I get a thought about the Enneagram and I get a “truthbomb” from Danielle LaPointe. Yeah, I know, some of you are thinking “cheesy, self help, mumbo jumbo.” And you’re right. Most of the time.

But occasionally, one slips through my cynicism filter, and I find myself thinking about it hours, sometimes days, after. Like this one from a couple weeks ago:


I’ve only drunk really good bottles of wine a couple times in my life.  I mostly drink the $10 stuff, and I’m not enough of a connoisseur to really know the difference. But if you drink a really good wine, they tell you that you’re supposed to decant the wine. Let it come into contact with the air. Let it breathe. (Especially if it’s an older bordeaux or cote du rhone with heavy tannins. Whatever that means!)


Is this a season of heavy lifting? Have you been thinking hard about complicated issues? Have you been reading, studying, leaning into difficult conversations? Is there hard relational stuff you’ve been facing?

This isn’t normal life. Growth and change nearly always come in fits and spurts. We grow intensely for awhile, in response to crisis or because we got inspired by an idea, or someone we love pushes us to think or live differently. And, if you’re anything like me, it tends to consume you for awhile. This thing is all you think about, it’s all you talk about, you feel consumed with it.

But then, after we’ve done the work, we sometimes need to stop and “let it breathe.” We need to go on hiatus, refuse to talk about the thing. We need to go back to enjoying life as it is, to be with people we’ve been in intense discussion with and not talk about the thing that we’ve been talking about for the last several months.

Sometimes we need to take our new idea, new way of being in the world and let it breathe to see if it even works. And in this time, we don’t make big decisions, we don’t react to what’s going on around us, we just let our thing sit and be what it is for a little while. What we need is a period of normal life, doing normal things with the people we love.

(Yes, I’m looking at you, Imago Dei Church. Some of us need to “let it breathe” for a bit. Amen?)


In May, Jennifer and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. And by “celebrate,” I mean our two youngest have baseball games that night and I have a meeting at church. It should be hot.

20 years have been very good to Jennifer and me, and I hope to write about how much we’re still in love and growing into each other after 20 years in May. But sometimes, in the course of a 20-year marriage, you find yourselves at loggerheads. There are times when you feel like you just aren’t connecting, and no matter what you do to try to repair things, everything is misunderstood and hurtful.

In Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, she describes her own 11-year marriage like this: “It had turned out to be about becoming comfortable with each other’s silences — about the paradoxical way that pulling back and giving each other pockets of space draws us closer.”

By my nature, I want to keep pushing through these times. I want to make it better. I hate it when my closest relationships are “off.” But I’ve learned in 20 years, that sometimes you have to let it breathe, you have to give things a “pocket of space” so you can draw closer. Sometimes, even in the midst of tough relationship stuff, you need to do fun things and promise not to bring up whatever is you’re struggling with. You need a cease fire.


No, you shouldn’t run away from your problems. I’m not talking about quitting. With the people we love and in the hard situations we find ourselves in, we will only be better by pushing through, learning what we need to learn, becoming what we need to become.

But sometimes in the middle of the struggle, we need to stop and let it breathe.

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  • Paige Staes Whitney

    Great blog Charlie…I have been using the phrase “just breathe” for several years now. I think it started with my ex when he was frustrated with the kids…moving up to the kids when they were/are frustrated with their dad or school/friends…when I taught at Methodist College of Nursing and starting out with a new group of students in a new clinical are, just breath became a mantra to calm the soul before entering the floor and patient room. And then I noticed that I was stressed, and I spent all this time helping others, but forgot to help myself. In a rash moment, not necessarily a recommended idea, I had the words “Just Breathe” tattooed on the inner left forearm as a gentle reminder t h at sometimes we just to slow down, take a look our surroundings, assess what we have, and simply breath.

  • John Gill

    Great blog. Something I struggle with for sure!

    I think this is a great analogy, but I’m afraid it falls a little short for me personally.

    When we talk about wine and letting it breath, there are times where you don’t let it breath, or you need to let it breath a extra long time. Like a champagne, if you let it breath, it becomes flat, or a Old Burgundy, while it meets all the criteria for letting a dark red wine breath, it’s considered to fragile to let breath. As in, if you let it breath, despite that’s what you think it might need, you will only end up hurting it more and destroying some of the greatest parts about it.

    There is also the argument that you never pour an old red into a decanter without knowing the time it went in and knowing the exact time it’s suppose to be taken out. (Since you brought up Imago) This is my biggest fear with where we are right now. 6 months ago we got “we are letting this breath, and it will be ready in February” and now we are hearing “it needs more time, but we have no idea how much more, and when we will even start talking about it again.” (or at least thats how it feels.)

    Household bills stress me out, and my wife knows this, so instead of letting it hang in the air, we schedule a time, a place to talk about it. She knows if she brings it up at lunch, that will ruin lunch for me, and makes me nervous and upset. So she is nice and waits for me to be ready, and I out of respect for her, force myself to be ready when the time comes that we agreed upon. This is how we keep that part of our marriage in tact. She let me breath during lunch, but that night, it was time for me to be ready, even if I forgot my favorite show was on.

    As I was asked on Saturday by a gay couple that I know that have been searching for a new church for years, and have been wanting to find a place to have a ceremony in. “Will we be welcome there?” and I had to look them in the face and say “not really”.

    I WANT TO LET THIS BREATH! But I can’t because my friends don’t get that option, they don’t get to put their lives on hold, or let their relationship breath. They have a relationship with Christ and need a community to celebrate and grow into that with! And I hate looking at them and saying they aren’t fully welcome, when they ask me!

    I’m not arguing that we should change our ways to accommodate everyone. But that some may not be able to let this breath, because it’s a really old Burgundy to them, and they know it will tear apart their relationships if they let it breath. Just like I’m sure for some, it will ruin relationships if they don’t let it breath. It’s a rock and a hard place, but something I find just as challenging in the Bible as Romans 14 is the constant argument to stand up for the least of these or the outcasts. And I will forever be trying to balance these to stances! Please forgive me for my failures while I try to model Christ and be a friend to all the people.

    John Gill

    • Yeah, yeah, metaphors are always a bit clunky. And sometimes, “letting it breathe,” is the wrong approach too. It’s hard to know. And by nature, some of us run too quickly to “let it breathe,” and some of us grab onto, “I’m not leaving this room until we sort this out.” So, our own personalities and biases and ways of seeing the world color how we read something like this. (Like you pointed out, sometimes decanting a wine is the wrong thing to do.)

      As for our church stuff… there’s lots I could say, that I won’t say here (stop by sometime!) except this… it’s the same tension we feel in personal relationships… is this a time to “let it breathe,” or fight it out? Depending on personality, perspective, life experiences, and the people that we’re in relationship with… good people will answer that question in different ways. (And I’ve had nearly the same conversation as you several times in the past couple of weeks, although I’ve answered it slightly differently…)

      And finally – on a personal note… Jennifer and I the other day were both praising you for how your handled yourself in this conversation. Thank you.