About a year ago, my good friend Ryan Purcell showed me this video he'd bought. It was part of a series called "Nooma," and this one in particular was called Breathe. I was going to describe the entire video, but fortunately it's available to embed:
While it's more artsy and Protestant than I typically prefer, the ideas Bell presents have stuck with me since that first viewing.
When we say our daily offerings and offer up our mouth--For Christ, With Christ, Like Christ, I offer you my mouth, Lord--one of the most important things to offer in that moment is our breath. As Bell so beautifully explains, our soul and existence comes from the Breath of Life God breathed into us at Creation. What greater gift can there be than to give back to the Lord our very life?
One of my health teachers in middle school wondered aloud if each person has a specific number of breaths and heartbeats, and once these are all used up, you die. I haven't bothered to see what the scientific world has to say on the subject. The teacher wasn't wedded to the idea, but it was clear they'd thought about it. They even said that exercise, even though it causes us to use more breaths and heartbeats in the short term, actually prolonged our lives because in times of rest we would use fewer breaths and our hearts would beat slower.
What if we really do have a limit to how much of the Breath of Life is given us? Whether it's true or not, the question underscores how important it is that every second of life we have be offered in service to the Lord.
I had many conversations in the past with someone about how young people are trained to always be looking forward. It's the attitude of the clock-watcher, who's so anxious to move on to the next thing that he wastes so much time doing nothing but watching the clock hands slowly turn.
When you're in middle school, you can't wait to get to high school where things matter. When you're in high school, you can't wait to go to college where things actually matter. When you're in college, you can't wait to graduate and go out into the real world where things truly matter. And then once they graduate college, some will get married and have a family. But many are still caught in the "always-looking-forward" mentality, and once they have no other cultural institution to act as a mile post for their life, they panic. I think this is usually the impetus behind the midlife crisis--what does one live for when there are no more tangible goals to attain?
What so many of us miss is to live in the moment. If you are in college, life does not begin when you graduate--your life is NOW. Life does not wait up for us to be ready, and if we do try to wait it can become--quite literally--a waste of breath, a waste of life. To paraphrase a saying I've heard several times, the past is dead and Christ already won us the future, so the only time that matters for us is now.
The only breath that matters is the one we draw this very instant.
To incorporate more of Bell, it only matters that we breath and proclaim the name of God in this moment, as our faith may falter from where it was in the past, and we cannot trust ourselves to persevere fully in the future.
I take this breath now, pronounce God's name, and in so doing proclaim my faith in Him. We cannot waste the breath, the time, the life we have right now. And every time we inhale we should rejoice that God is once again proving his love for us by yet again filling us with the Breath of Life, His Spirit, and His holy name.
Lord, I pray that you will forgive me for all the time I waste, for squandering the life you gave me to serve you. Help me to offer up to you every breath I take, and to always remember your remarkable love for me. I resolve to spend my life in service to you, so that in the end, like you did, I may give up my Spirit for the Father and the ones I love.