We do it without even thinking about it. Somewhere between 12 and 16 times a minute, our chest contracts and then expands, and our lungs fill with air. The lungs extract oxygen, which our body uses to pump our blood, move our limbs, and power our thoughts.
We do this over and over, from birth, when our first, shocking breath of air is almost always accompanied with a cry, to our final breath, which moves us from this life to the next. It is involuntary. You don’t have to tell yourself to breathe. Your body just knows, and acts.
While we can hold our breath for a short time eventually our body will react and gasp for air. We are reminded that we are totally dependent – on breath.
As we step into the season of Lent, we are reminded of our dependence. This year more poignantly than others. Racial unrest, political turmoil and a pandemic that has changed the world’s way of life has served as a reminder that we are not in control. There are other forces at work, and ultimately we depend on the love and grace of God to see us through challenging times. Lent is a time when we think, pray and reflect on the goodness of God, and the sacrifice that God made through Jesus, to bring love, grace and wholeness to a broken world.
Throughout scripture, the imagery of “breath” is used. From the breath of God that gave life to the first humans, to Jesus on the cross, when he “breathed his last,” we are reminded that through breath, God is at work in the world. No where is God’s goodness more obvious and apparent, then on Easter morning, when Jesus breathed again.
We depend on breath. And God gives it to us. God gives the gift of life. And more than that, God’s Holy Spirit, the “breath of God,” the Ruach, is the nature of God that continues to work in the world, bringing health, wholeness and healing. God’s Spirit has been set loose to restore creation. God’s spirit is what inspires and lifts us up.
This Lent we will explore the breath of God, and the breath of life. We will think about our own human mortality and the promise that God’s Spirit accompanies us, and gifts us, with life that will go on long after we take our last breath.
Lent is a reminder that while our breath is limited and will come to an end, the breath of God, this amazing gift, is eternal.
Thanks be to God!