(Genesis 2:7, Job 12:10, Job 32:8, Psalm 150:6, Ezekiel 37:9-10, John 20:21-22, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Revelation 11:4-11)
After 25 years, I recently started playing trumpet again and I love it! But I forgot how much air it takes and what it does to me. If I practice the way I should, the air makes my lips tingle from their vibration; the corners of my mouth ache from keeping the air channeled into the mouthpiece and not letting it leak from the sides of my mouth; and after 20 or 30 minutes my diaphragm and back are exhausted from pressing my lungs for that strong, constant push of air. But part of my struggle is simply the result of not running lately. I can’t enjoy the benefits of strong lungs if I don’t keep them healthy. For a wind musician, running regularly or not can turn the everyday experience of breathing into a means of success or failure.
Breathing is so natural that I forgot that I needed to exercise my lungs for my trumpet playing. In fact, it’s so natural that I almost did not think to include it in this book. Still, it is a powerful picture of life that must be reclaimed as imagery of the gospel. Genesis 2:7 says God breathed life into Adam; in Ezekiel 37 (a foreshadowing of the resurrection of God’s people), God breathes life into the dead; John 20:22 tells us that Jesus breathed His Holy Spirit into the disciples; and in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul describes all Scripture as God-breathed. In each case, God’s breath is His first gift that empowers us to live for Him.
Breathing is so simple but filled with messages from God. For example, every breath should remind us that we are constantly in need. The body can go weeks without food and days without water, but only minutes without air. Remember the “Head” of the Body in Ephesians 4:15? – even if I hold my breath until I passed out, my head kicks in and tells my lungs to breathe again. So (on a side note) parents have little to fear when their toddler holds his or her breath as a bribe!
Our breathing not only pictures our neediness, it should remind us that God designed us to depend on each other and to share with each other. When you exhale, the green plants take the carbon dioxide in your breath and transform it into oxygen for me to breathe. Have I thanked you lately for breathing – even if you didn’t brush your teeth this morning? It may sound a little silly, but hasn’t God described us as members of His Body who need each other? Think of that when you’re gasping for air! But seriously, sometimes when I run I meditate on my breath as His gift to “take it in . . . give it away . . . take it in . . . give it away” to remind myself that He breathed life into me so I can give His “breath‟ (His Word) to others for their eternal life in Christ.
One of my mentors once told me that even the Hebrew word for God’s name (YHWH) might be pronounced as an audible inhale and exhale, resembling the sound of breathing: “YH” (yah) and “WH” (weh). These are some of the few Hebrew letters in which the lips and tongue remain open for a constant flow of air. Maybe it’s just coincidental, but it seems that just saying God’s Hebrew name can remind me that – as it says in a Christian song – “This is the air I breathe: Your holy presence, living in me!”
Consider the many times and ways that our breathing becomes more labored: when we’re afraid, angry, in pain, confused, scared, etc. Virtually any time we’re under stress, we hear others tell us to “breathe”. Not simply to move the air in and out but to “take deep slow breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth”. Why? When you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, thus, getting more oxygen to your body. Again, a reminder that we need what only He can give.
Oxygen is energy, and focusing to draw more into my body can give me greater strength, calm, and even clarity of thought. After all, the brain is a physical organ, too! But at face value, slow deliberate breathing can seem foolish to anyone who may be watching. I mean, isn’t that what women do right before they to give birth?! I am trying to sound foolish here to make a point: left to our own spirits, we like to look good and strong, not needy. Yet only by focusing on what we need can we seek after what we truly need!
What is your fear? And who is your Love? W.A.I.T.
Watch what happens within you. As I breathe more slowly, I notice that my mind resists and starts to race with all the things I could be DOing. My muscles fidget, and I want to go accomplish something to feel worthwhile. An old memory verse comes to my mind that “even when we were dead in our trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). Like CPR, God breathed life into me when I couldn’t do anything! Because I need Him, I must . . .
Accept that this tension is often my fear of discovering my true spirit and being discovered by God. But God already knows me and breathed life into me anyway! So I will . . .
Invest in His Kingdom by listening more to the Word that He has breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17) and be mindful that I can’t do anything to bring myself to life. And I will …
Team with other believers to praise our Lord Who gave us birth and rebirth by the gracious power of His breath, the Word. I will confess my need for Him, taking Him in and giving the gospel to others.
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