Life seems to be getting busier, faster, and more complex. Before you know it, you can feel tired, stressed, exhausted, and just plain out of breath. That’s why it’s so important to pause frequently - just to breathe. Maybe you feel “out of breath” (exhausted or gasping for breath) or even winded. Take some time to “catch your breath” (which means to pause or rest before continuing an activity or beginning a new one). Learn to “breathe freely”, experiencing relief from tension, anxiety, tension or pressure. Breathe in God’s Spirit. Be refreshed.
No one I know really takes time to stop and think about his or her breathing. Yet, each day we take about 26,000 breaths. That’s about 14,000 litres of air. We should breath from our stomach not our chest … but when we are stressed, distracted, or moving too fast we don’t breath properly. We need only around 4-6 breaths a minute but most of us take around 16-20. Experts tell us that 99% of our energy should come from our breathing BUT most of us only access 10-20% of that available energy. [See Nooma 014 Breathe for more]
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters (Gen.1:1-2). The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is ruach and it literally means breath or wind (see John 3:6-8). God is Spirit – breath, in contrast to idols who have no breath, because they are lifeless. God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into him and he became a living being – a soul or person (Gen.2:7).
Every human being is made of (1) dust (Hebrew adama from which we get the name Adam) and (2) divine breath. We are both dirt, and therefore fragile and vulnerable, and sacred breath, crowned with glory and honour (Ps.8:5). Divine dirt clods – what a paradox! You are a sacred creation of God and so is everyone and everything around you.
When God sends his Spirit, life is created. A baby takes its first breath and life begins. The breath you just took, the one you are taking now, and the one you are about to take – all come from God. The last thing we do is take our last breath. When God takes away ruach (breath) all living creatures die and return to dust. Life is breath and its absence is death. We are totally dependent on God - for breath, for life (see Num.27:15. Job 12:10; 33:4; 34:14-15. Ps.104:29-30).
In the new creation, Jesus breathes on his disciples and they receive the Holy Spirit – the breath of God (John 20:22). The church is the gathered people of God, coming together in relationship, with the Spirit of God breathing His life in and through them (Ezekiel 37:4-5). On the day of Pentecost, the church was born, as God breathed into his people the life of His Spirit (Acts 2).
Breathe IN Breathe OUT
God himself gives life and breath to everything and he satisfies every need … God is not far from anyone of us. For in Him we live and move and breathe (Acts 17:25-28). Physical breath is a picture of divine reality. Naturally, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. What do you need to breathe OUT? Are there some things you need to leave behind? What do you need to let go of? What’s going on inside of you today? What are you: angry, anxious, concerned, bothered, or stressed about? Breathe OUT – worry, fear, discouragement …
What do you need to breathe IN? Let God in – the Spirit without limit! The Spirit of God can live within us bringing us life (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit sanctifies us - purges, cleans out. What we need is as close as our breath. God is here right now and all the time. We are on holy ground. Breath in God’s life, joy, peace, faith …
Sometimes people pit the contemplative life against the active life. But both are important - who we are and what we do, breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in is about spirituality and character formation while breathing out is also about mission with Christ. Our being and our doing should not be separated. Robert Mulholland says that following Christ with no application to mission is like inhaling and not exhaling. Likewise, if we are constantly doing without being we run out of breath and are forever exhausted.
Spiritual formation and mission are to be connected and complimentary. Our greatest priority is the cultivation of a personal spiritual intimacy with Christ. This is the only way to maintain vitality and the endurance needed to continue successfully in work of God. Spiritual disciplines such as solitude, silence, study, prayer, including praying in the Spirit, and reading God’s Word releases a rich flow of the Spirit into our life. There are many changes that happen in life of believer and one of the most important is the shift from being self-centred to God centred. Our hope is that we can be transformed by the grace of God and in turn be instruments of change and transformation in the lives of others. As we do that, we will see our vision of 10,000 stories of transformation become a reality.
The apostle Paul speaks of us carrying a fragrance with us wherever we go (2 Cor.2:14). What is our breath like? Does our daily life draw people to Christ through an attractive aroma of grace? Or do we have such a bad breath that people are put off and turned away?
Sample Reflection Questions
1. How is the pace of your life right now? Do you feel adequately challenged, over-challenged or under-challenged? What adjustments could you make?
2. Reflect on a time when you were “out of breath”. What did it feel like? How did you deal with it?
3. When you feel tired, drained or down, what replenishing activities do you find most helpful to fill you up again?
4. What are some things you need to breathe OUT right now? Things that are weighing you down or that you need to let go of?
5. What are some things you need to breathe IN right now? What aspects of God’s Spirit could you do with a greater experience of in your personal life? Is it peace, joy, love or courage?
6. God calls us to be thermostats not thermometers. In others words, we are to influence our environment not just react to it. In what ways can we display the aroma and attractiveness of Christ in our daily lives, especially around those people who don't yet have a relationship with Him?
7. God created the world to run with a rhythm of activity and rest, work then Sabbath. How well is this rhythm outplaying in your life right now? What adjustments do you need to make?
8. Take some time to pray around any of the above reflections and some breathe Scriptures.