Our description of God comes in a variety of adjectives. We need a variety of adjectives for any attempt to use words to wrap around God who is bigger than words. God is our rock. God is our strength. Emmanuel, God is with us. God is our refuge. God is our place of safety. I have loved all of these descriptions of God over the span of my faith life.
I have a new and current favorite–God is breath.
I could start this description with God is fire because this insight comes out of the story of The Burning Bush from Exodus 3. God became present to Moses by being in a bush that was burning yet never burned up. Here Moses had a conversation with God (as in God initiated and responded, oh how I desire that!) because God was distressed over the Israelites being in slavery. (v. 7). God instigated the discussion because the time had finally come for deliverance and stuttering and exiled Moses was his messenger.
In this conversation (an actual conversation with God, oh how I desire that!) Moses asked God, “they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” (v. 13). God replied, “I am who I am.” (v. 14). I am who I am. God who is bigger than words. God who is without boundary or edge.
Further in v. 15 God gets a bit more specific. “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.” I like the New Living Translation which filled in the vowels here to spell Yahweh (sometimes also spelled as Jehovah). Other Bible translations have the word LORD (all caps is important) or YHVH. YHVH is the proper Hebrew. The Hebrew language does not have vowels, it has consonants. The closest thing to a vowel is the Yod Hei Vav Hei, all found in YHVH.
Say those Hebrew letters over and over again right now. Doesn’t it sound like breathing?
So when God says His name is I am or YHVH, God sounds like breath.
Consider God as breath at the creation of the world. In the poem in Genesis that tells about the creation of the world, God spoke everything into creation. Speaking takes breath. But when it came to the creation of humans—those created to walk with God—Genesis 2:7 describes this as “Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” God stooped down and created us out of the dust of the ground. God took dust and created value. And with that creation in his hand, he breathed life into us. His breath brought the created value to life.
Worthiness is your birthright.
When a baby is born into this life, the very first thing that baby must do is breathe. All are waiting with baited breath (yes, breath) to see that baby take his/her first breath. When that baby gasps for air, he/she is alive and letting everyone know it. It is a beautiful scene. The Creator created this baby for such a time as this and placed his breath into him/her to live. Alive.
Worthiness is your birthright. You began your life with the breath of God inside of you so you could live. Now you are alive. You were enough the minute you were born.
Another interesting thought. I mentioned my desire to have conversations with God. You have that desire too, right? The times I can hear God’s voice the best is when I slow down. When I stop to breathe for a few moments. Yes, breathe. It is in those moments that God is breath that clarity comes to my mind. When I slow down to breathe, I can hear God is breath. This slow time with God better directs me for the rest of my day.
There is a song we hear only during the Christmas season. It’s called “Mary’s Song” or “Breath of Heaven.” And it is beautiful.
From the chorus: “Breath of Heaven”
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven
Beautiful. “Hold me together. Be forever near me.” This is so often a prayer that I have that it often comes out as breathing. Which makes sense that this is the cry of my heart because my life began with God’s breath making me alive.
Be brave. Stop and hear the breath of God this Christmas season. You are worthy of God breathing into you.
(Thank you, Rob Bell, for the Hebrew lesson.)