Job again took up his discourse and said: ‘As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me?and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit.
“Take a deep breath. Hold it. Let it out. Again. Let it out.”
No, I am not a physician checking your respiration, but simply a voice encouraging awareness of the Holy Spirit breathing life into you. In reality, every breath you take you are drawing in God’s Spirit.
Breathe in…breathe out…we normally do it 12-14 times per minute, 17,000 to 20,000 times a day, largely beyond our conscious awareness. We scarcely think about the miracle of breathing, we just do it; breathing the Holy Spirit keeps us alive. If we miss just a few of these breaths in a row, we will die.
In today’s text Job is tormented with sores from the bottom of his foot to the top of head (Job 2:7-8). Sitting among ashes and scraping himself with potsherds, Job sighs: “…as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood” (emphasis mine). Job equates his physical breath with the Spirit of God in his nose. He knows that from the moment God first breathed life into Adam’s nostrils every breath is breathing in the powerful, life-giving Spirit of God. It isn’t just air that we are taking in each moment, but God’s Spirit-breath. “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). Job understands that God inflates us with His breath for carrying out His purposes in the world.
In the original languages of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, breath equals spirit. The Hebrew word for “breath”, ruach, is the same as the word for “spirit”. The Greek word for “breath”, pneuma, is also the same word for “spirit”. One can only tell by the context whether “breath” or “spirit” is intended as their meanings so closely overlap.
People often associate the Holy Spirit with the spectacular and rare experiences, but Job associated the Holy Spirit with breathing life into him and sustaining him. The American mystic and spiritual writer Thomas Merton was asked about his spiritual life and practices. Merton replied simply: “What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe”. For Merton the Holy Spirit was most often experienced not in the exceptional and rare, but in the midst of daily life (Thomas Merton: A Life in Letters: The Essential Collection). The Holy Spirit was as present to Merton as his breathing. All day long he was breathing the Holy Spirit.
The implications of the Spirit as our breath are staggering! Stop and think about it: God is as close to you right now as the breath you are taking in. So breathe deeply and cherish each breath as a gift of the Spirit’s transforming presence within you. “You are the breath of God and right now God is breathing you.” (St. Catherine of Sienna, 1347-1380)
Almost every spiritual teacher throughout time has pointed to the breath in some way. We do well to pay attention to our breath and to the Spirit of God’s presence in each breath. Take a moment to breathe deeply and to ponder the poem “Draw Breath”, by the Quaker Geoffrey Weeden:
Breathe in the quiet purpose of this place;
Through outward stillness, seek a calm within.
Here we can find forgiveness and forgive;
Here feel the healing miracle begin.
Breathe out the busy world, the teeming mind,
The follies, fears and failures of the week;
Breathe out contention, pettiness and pride,
And wait in trust for “that of God” to speak.
Breathe in communion, friend with quiet friend,
Each drawing closer in this timeless hour;
As all our different needs and gifts are drawn
To the one source of comfort, love and power.
Breathe out at last, to God, the heart’s full thanks
That we have seen this vision, known this grace;
Renewed through love, let us that love extend
Through all our daily life beyond this place.
Grace and peace,
photo by tina