Thursday, January 10, 2008
Have you ever been short of breath? I can remember multiple occasions … coming off my pony at high speed and being winded … swimming underwater just a bit too long … that feeling of lungs just screaming for oxygen … the instinct to breathe is life itself.
I have been thinking about breath lately. Recently I was home in New Zealand and while at my Mums, I took every opportunity to be on my beach (she lives 2 doors down) in the evening – generally playing with my camera (see above photo!), but also, just taking in time to stand in the dunes and breathe. Breathe in fresh, glorious New Zealand air, breathe in the space and stillness of the cool of the evening, breathe in the beauty and wonder all around me, breathe in peace. I could have walked and walked on my beach (its possible to walk for hours – that’s the joy of a NZ coastline) but mostly I just wanted to BE when I would get down there. Far from the smog, crowds and frenzied pace of Seoul, my soul rejoiced and drank in the opportunity to be still. There is something incredibly restoring about being in the midst of the beauty of God’s creation.
A quick wee look at Websters dictionary gives some interesting definitions of breathe …
To start with, we have the physical act of inhaling and exhaling. Do you know that many specialists have noted that we do not breathe properly. We get into bad habits of shallow breathing – it’s the minimum we need but it does not give us all we need. I learnt this while taking singing lessons. I would arrive at singing from a day of teaching, and my chest would be tight and I would be doing small top ups of air instead of the deep breaths my body was designed for. Often I was unaware of it and my singing teacher would point it out. I would have to be very conscious and deliberate about the way I breathed. Are you like that in your spiritual walk? Just shallow breathing with God? A little is enough to keep you going? Are you tight and pressured? Take time to stop and breathe deeply.
An additional meaning is simply, “live”. This just makes me think of that scripture that says in him we live, move and have our being. Are you existing, or LIVING?
Another meaning that has become more obsolete over time but really caught me is, “to emit a fragrance or aura”. I have a colleague who has the most incredible sense of smell … any time I wear a perfume, she notices and is able to identify it. If it’s new to her, I tell her once and then she can pick it any time. Do you exude the fragrance of Christ? As you move through your daily life, do people notice it?
Another definition is, “to pause and rest before continuing”. Not much we need to say here is there?! Are you building in those times to pause and rest. Times to just be still and breathe in his presence?
A final definition from Websters: “to feel free of restraint”. This brings me back to those singing lessons and my tight chest from incorrectly breathing. When we stand still in space and take time to breathe, we become free. Think of God’s desire for us, so beautifully expressed in Job 36:16: “I am wooing you from the jaws of distress, bringing you into a SPACIOUS PLACE, FREE FROM RESTRICTION” (caps mine). Why does God want to bring us into this spacious place? Because he DELIGHTS in us! (Ps 18:19).
I had a wee look at some of the scriptures about breathing and there are two very important words for us to be aware of.
Firstly we have Naphach (pronounced naw-phach’). This Hebrew word has multiple meanings but the most common ones are to blow and to breathe. It is the word used in Genesis when God breathed the breath of life into Adam. Interestingly, one of its major connotations is to give up life. We have life because Christ gave his up!
Naphach is also used throughout Ezekial 37 – the dry bones chapter. There is another Hebrew word here that can be used for breath and it is Ruwach (pronounced Ruach). This word means breath, mind, spirit. So when God is saying that he will put his breath in the dry bones and they shall live, he is talking about the very essence of himself. And there it is in a nutshell folks. We live because he gives us life.
How often do you stop to breathe? To be still? Do you slow down enough to realise the screaming in your lungs? Are you desperate for Him to fill you with his breath? His life? His presence? I know that this year, I need to be desperate … I need to spend more time breathing in his word and his presence. How about you?
I will leave you meditating on the lyrics of that beautiful worship song by Marie Barnett. I have linked it to Michael w Smith so take a couple of minutes and just soak in God's presence while you listen ... The words are below if you need them ...
This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
You holy presence
Living in me
This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word
Spoken to me
And I, I’m desperate for you
And I, I’m lost without you