“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. … I will put breath in you and you will live. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:5-6 (NET)
Have you ever exercised until you were almost out of breath? Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you? If so, you have experienced the preciousness of breath.
Because otherwise, we take breath for granted. Breathing is as natural as, well, the air we breathe. And yet, when God formed mankind, He “formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Paul reiterates in the book of Acts that God Himself gives life and breath to everything and everyone (Acts 17:25b). And the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that when these bodies die, “life’s breath returns to God who gave it.” (Ecc. 12:7b).
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for breath in both Ezekiel 37 and in Ecclesiastes 12 is the word ruach which can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.” Also, the Greek word for breath used in Acts 17 (and elsewhere in the New Testament) is the word pneuma which also can be translated either as “breath” or “spirit.”
Maybe the Spirit is as essential to our being as is breathing.
Maybe our very being is more integrated with God’s being than we might image.
Maybe God is not closer than the air we breathe; maybe His Spirit IS the air we breathe.
Maybe when we breathe, we invite the Spirit of God in to give us life.
So the next time you are working out and begin to notice your breath, use it as a prompting to notice the Spirit. And the next time things get hard, and you are tempted to hold your breath — breathe! Especially then, breathe.
And when the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (John 20:21b-22).