“Be still, and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10a
“Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.’ And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'” – Luke 10:38-42
It’s the most natural thing in the world – literally. We come into the world knowing how to do it, without ever being taught, and we continue to do it, until the day that we die. It is, in fact, the one thing that we cannot live without. We even have machines that can help us do it, if our bodies become inefficient at it, or can do it for us, if we forget how, altogether. It is essential to our very survival.
So, I was intrigued, this week, when I came across this: “I had read that one of God’s names is YHWH. Hebrew scholars tell us those four letters that make up His name are actually the sounds of breathing. I wonder at the generosity of a God who gives Himself a name we can’t help but speak the moment we first enter the world and in those last few moments we lie resting…” (Maggie Paulus, from Finding God at the Kitchen Sink, Moody Publishers, 2014).
Wait a minute…His NAME is the sound of BREATHING?!? Like I said, I was intrigued. I got out my Strong’s (Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) and started doing some research. I learned, long ago, of the particular name she was referring to, and knew that it was from the Hebrew, and purposefully written without the vowels. But the sound of breathing? That was new to me. But, it turns out, the simplest form of the word that the name is rooted in IS actually a word for breathing, based on the sounds that the act creates.
I am totally blown away by this realization. Not only did He give Himself a name that we cannot help but speak as we enter and leave this world, but He gives us the very breath to speak it. All those moments, all those times when I am too overwhelmed to even pray…all those times when I don’t have the words to speak…all those instances when I don’t know which name to cry out to…all those times when I have nothing – it’s enough to just breathe.
I keep hearing the chorus to the Johnny Diaz song Breathe:
Breathe. Just breathe.
Come and rest at My feet.
And be…just be…
Chaos calls, but all you really need
Is to just breathe.
As I was researching, I found that breathing and being are even more closely related than they appear. Because our breathing allows our life, in order to just be, the two are inextricable. Which makes the Hebrew even more amazing, because here’s the other thing my research revealed: the same Hebrew name that represents the sound of breathing is the name that God gave Himself from the very beginning – I AM THAT IS.
It is the personal name for God that the Hebrew people knew Him by, from the very beginning. And, because it is the very sound of our breath, His existence, and our relationship to Him, is confirmed every time we breathe. Our total inability to live without Him is embedded in our body’s natural processes. We cannot even survive without uttering His name.
Here’s a challenge for you: Meditation is one of the spiritual disciplines taught in Scripture. If you’ve ever practiced any yoga or guided meditation, especially for stress or anxiety, you’re no doubt familiar with the instruction to “focus on your breathing.” The next time you find yourself with a few quiet minutes, try focusing on the sound of your breathing – the name of God – and allow it to be a starting place for what He has for you. When you call out to Him, He will answer.