By Grace Andrews of Independence, MO, USA
God breathed upon the face of the deep and there was light. —Genesis 1:1–2 NRSV, paraphrased
Ruach is a Hebrew word for “breath” or “puff.” It also means “wind” or “spirit.” When God created humans, God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and they became living beings. Every breath we take is a reminder that we are divine creations infused with an eternal spirit. Often we take this simple truth for granted.
I vividly recall that sacred moment when I gave birth to each of our children. There is a moment following birth—a deafening silence, waiting for the baby to take its first breath. Silence—and then that wonderful cry and gasp!
Our third child came after a long, difficult labor. The room became fearfully still as she was silent, gray, and limp. I knew she was not breathing. For what seemed an eternity to me, the doctor carefully cleaned mucus out of her mouth and gave her a spank…silence. After several more tries, he lifted her little chin and blew a small puff of air into her mouth and lungs. Still silence. Then a little arm moved; after the next puff she coughed, and there was a weak cry. She began to turn pink. I have thanked God over and over for using my doctor to give a little gray being full life with small puffs of air.
On another occasion, my father struggled for breath as he lay dying. A shallow breath, another, and then silence. In an instant, my father transformed from a living being to one free from pain and illness. He was free to go on to a better life. A single breath was the barrier between life and death.
We, who breathe without thinking, need to remember the breath we take is God-given. The giving of breath and the taking of breath—both bring new life.
Always near, God’s presence fills the universe. God is as close to me as my own breath. No matter what this world may send my way, with God by my side, I have nothing to fear.
Prayer for Peace
You know our prayers, God, even before we breathe them. You know our gasps of fear and our sighs of relief. You know our quick, excited pants and our calm, measured breathing. May we breathe deeply of your spirit and your peace.
Light a candle and sit quietly, reflecting on the fire and light of God. Pay attention to your breathing and let it become calmer and deeper as you focus on God’s presence. Ask God to breathe in you. Image each breath carrying the light of God into your lungs, bloodstream, and every cell in your body until God’s Spirit fills you. Now imagine breathing out God’s compassion and grace each time you exhale. Pray to have the Spirit of Christ radiate from your life like the gentle flame of a candle.
Today, God, I will be aware of your presence with each breath.