When birth takes place, there is a moment when, despite the beating of the heart, despite the functioning of the organs -- which all begin before delivery into this world -- life cannot be sustained without oxygen entering the lungs. Smack. Gasp. Wail. And here you go, Mom, here’s your baby, and who did he get that temper from? (Adam, I thought to myself -- because I too was gasping too much to form the words with my mouth, he got that from Adam our first parent.)
But if, when that baby grows up, becomes a boy and grows into a man, he never inhales more than oxygen into his lungs, he will eventually breathe his last and finish life in eternal misery.
In the first incidence of human life on earth, when God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7), he didn’t merely introduce air into the lungs, he exhaled image-bearing God-essence into him. The breath of God sustained Adam's spiritual life -- and later, also Eve's -- and they communed with God and walked with him in the garden.
With the fall, however, spiritual death snuffed out the flame, and Adam and Eve lost life, lost truth, lost their paradise. God continued to maintain the intake and outtake of oxygen to sustain their physical bodies, but they became corrupted, and death and chaos and moral decay had entered the world.
We breathe. We trust the air will be there. We trust the body to contribute to the process without needing any prompts or reminders. We don’t see the air we breathe; it is just there, and we just never stop to think about it. I don't know anybody who resents air, or anyone who has ever been successful at living without it.
It plays its role in the biochemical balance of this universe, perfectly measured out and allotted for every task it has: creaturely sustenance, leafy greenery, watery wetness, the flash of fire, the drift of the seas, the distribution of seed. This is God’s masterfully designed world, and oxygen’s ubiquitous presence is his key ingredient.
Sort of like Jesus is the key ingredient to eternal life.
“He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25)
“In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
“In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:10)
“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
What mercy that God cast his pitying eye on withered, dry, dead mankind -- on me! -- that he breathed into me new life -- new birth, in all its gasping, breathing, wailing, living messiness -- so that I can love him, follow him, and serve him. Jesus stopped breathing upon the cross, that I might begin breathing for the first time as a spiritual creature. Now my soul is able to walk with him and talk with him, and inhale deep breaths of oxygen for loud praises to his glorious name.
** Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a weekly event hosted at the website of Kate Motaung wherein participants are given a single word prompt every Thursday evening, which remains active for one week. How to play: write for 5 minutes on the thoughts, memories, impressions, reflections, aspirations, hopes, beliefs, convictions, or whatever, that that prompt word brings to mind. Set a timer, write without worry about spelling or grammar or typos, and stop when the timer goes off (no cheating). The rules are here. It's free, it's non-committal, and it's easy to participate, so come to the #FMFparty with me! This week, the word was BREATHE.
Laura England Miller