Let me breathe!

Anvil journal of theology and mission

Let me breathe!

by Natasha Godfrey

Let                         me                                     breathe,
Let me be who I was meant to be
Created in the image of God
Let me                                                                            tread freely,
As the spirit leads me
Let me breathe…

My friends, when I approach you emotionally exhausted;
attempting to speak to you of my pain; why do you react as though
YOU are the afflicted one? Why, when I am afforded this small
window of opportunity to express to you the impact, the trauma,
the symbolism of the knee, do you dismiss my story with “Ah yes,
but All Lives Matter, surely?”

Of course, All Lives Matter, but we are in a crisis and I simply want
you to hold the space, see my face and feel this moment. But you
won’t let me breathe.
And I know that you’re exhausted too…
Whilst I have a
To speak freely…
Let me breathe,
Let me sing my tune and burst forth into song
O afflicted city that I am
Lashed by storms and not comforted
Let me sing, for he has promised to build me up with stones of
turquoise, my foundations with sapphires, my battlements of
rubies, my gates with sparkling jewels.
But you wrestle with your flesh,
Like Jacob fighting with head knowledge
Over a heart issue
As you try to decide whether my life matters,
Whether my presence is a moral or a political issue.
But the issue is that your indecision dehumanises me,
And your default position confirms how much of a stranger I am in
this strange land.

Let me breathe,
Let me shout it out aloud and not hold back
Let me raise my voice like a trumpet and declare to God’s people
their rebellion and to the house of Jacob that racism is a sin.
Do you not perceive that God is doing a new thing?
This is our new normal!
Things will never be the same.
Forget the “good old days”
It was only “good” for some
For when you required a song
Our Windrush pioneers
Invited, yet rejected
Could not sing
In harmony
Because the melody was way off key…
They were put on hold
Told to
Wait for resources
Yet simultaneously
They were pushed out onto the frontlines
With little protection.
Told to fend for themselves
As they endured long hours
For       MANY YEARS
70         LONG                  NHS         YEARS of generational exposure
400 years
Of injustice, exploitation, and abuse
And over
Over that time, we dropped like flies
From this global infection
That is systemic and unjust
A make-believe social construct!

So, in this hour
The Almighty commands that we
Fast our greed and loose the chains
Decolonise the false narrative of white supremacy
And untangle the lie
Untie the cords of the yoke
To set the oppressed free
Of systemic ties
That bind
So that WE can ALL breathe…
THEN our light will break forth like the dawn, says the Lord
And our healing will quickly appear
THEN our righteousness will go before us
And the glory of the Lord will be our rear guard
THEN when we call,
He will answer…
Here am I
Let me breathe so that I might be
Like a well-watered garden,
Like a spring whose waters never fail.
For I too am called to rebuild the ancient ruins
And raise up ancient foundations.
I too redeemed
Am called
To be a Repairer of Walls, a Restorer of Streets with Dwellings…
AND I will not come down until thy kingdom come
But you must let me breathe
Because, dear friend
The truth is
You cannot live without me.

© Natasha Godfrey, 2020

About the author

Natasha Godfrey is an actress, writer, auto-ethnographer, theologian and educator with an MA in theology and transformative practice. She uses her lived experience in a performative context as an educational tool. She also works part-time as coaching and mentoring co-ordinator for Church of England in Birmingham.

“Let Me Breathe” was commissioned for and performed at a “Courageous Conversations” webinar on 10 July 2020 (hosted by the Revd Dr Sharon Prentis and Bishop David Urquhart). This was a step toward meaningful dialogue around racial inequality and injustice, highlighted by the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests globally.

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