Nov 20 2011

The Air That We Breathe

Today I’m still thinking about air and how it can play a role in our spiritual lives. In my last post I noted that in both Greek and Hebrew the word for wind also means spirit.  To make things even more interesting, the same words that mean wind and spirit also mean breath.  This, too, has spiritual implications.  In the Genesis 2 account of Creation it says, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (v. 7)  Apart from the giving of God’s breath (spirit, wind) there was no life.  The first man may have had a body prior to this but not life.  It is God who imparts life and that life was given in God’s breath.  

Everyone knows that we must have air to breathe in order to live.  Without air we suffocate and die.  Air is an essential element for life.  Those who affirm God as the Creator of the earth can easily see how the air we breathe and that sustains us may be viewed as a metaphor for God.  Through His breath God gives us life.  Through His breath we are sustained.  As we breathe air into our lungs we receive life from God, we take in His very Spirit.

It is certainly worth noting that the same air that gives life to and sustains humans also gives life to and sustains the rest of Creation.  The animals that inhabit this planet with us breathe the same air we do.  The plants, likewise, take in and benefit from the very same air.  This is not only a reminder of our commonality with all other living things but also of the fact that all life comes from God and is sustained by Him.

After being told that the world is still being created, and that is it Christ who is reaching his fulfillment in it, Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “When I heard and understood that saying, I looked around and saw, as though in an ecstasy, that through all nature I was immersed in God.  God is everywhere…  Every breath that passes through me, envelops me, or captivates me, emanates, without any doubt, from the heart of God; like a subtle and essential energy, it transmits the pulsations of God’s will.”

We should be thankful for every breath we take.  Each gulp of air is a gift from God and an extension of God.  Every breath is a reminder that God desires for us to enjoy life and to enjoy Him.  I cannot help but believe that this has been His intention from the beginning.  The wind we feel and the air we breathe are perpetual reminders of God’s goodness and love.  For these ongoing reminders let us all give thanks. 

Understanding the connection between God and air might also serve as a motivator for us all to work harder for clean air standards.  It is obvious from Scripture that air is meant to give life, not harm it.  We have theological as well as health reasons for working hard to curtail air pollution and its harmful effects.  It is painful to think that something that is associated with God and life has come to be so polluted.  That is certainly not what God intended.  God’s breath, God’s air, is meant to be life giving, just as it was for the first human long ago in the Garden of Eden.

–Chuck

(I photographed the sandhill crane at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.  I captured the middle image at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado.  I took the bottom image at Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.)