In high school, one of my favourite teachers was Mr. Rogers. He taught English literature and creative writing. The tidbit which came up in a lesson that most resonated with me was, "Life's a bitch and then you die." That phrase reflected something that I could feel in my daily experience. It was freeing to acknowledge that. The lesson, though, was that even though Mr. Rogers seemed to acknowledge the futility of life, he himself did not seem overcome by it. He was gentle and humorous and hopeful. Was there more to life than just this bleak, pessimistic outlook?
The book of Ecclesiastes is a beautiful, strange book of wisdom in the Old Testament. It opens up with a look at life similar to mine at that time.
Ecclesiastes 1:2 – Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (NRSV)
Does this seem hopeful? A course I once took had me looking at the Hebrew keyword of this text: havel, meaning breath, the same word as the name Abel. "Breath of breath, all is just a breath." Our lives are but a breath.
Yet Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven, became fully human, born as a baby, and shared in this same breath. After His short life, it became something even greater as He breathed again:
John 20:21-22 – Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (NRSV)
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty and futility of life, or do you feel quite the opposite? Wherever you are, I encourage you to take a moment to breathe. Put your feet flat on the floor, become centred in your being. Sit up straight and comfortably, becoming aware of how you feel as you relax each of your limbs. Feel the air entering your lungs, and rest in that awareness for a while. Whenever you need to, come and rest this way, seeking the presence of the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, who animates all life.
Prayer: Dear God, we breathe in; we breathe out. Thank You for giving us breath. Encourage us with Your Spirit at all times. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "The First Nowell" (Lyrics)