Friday, August 27, 2010

Life and Breath

“Find a newspaper article that has something to do with religion.”

It is a challenge that I set every year to groups of young people. In this day and age it isn’t cool to think that religion matters. People listen to Richard Dawkins who insists that religion is outdated and irrelevant, and they nod in agreement, not realising that it’s in our DNA. We are wired to seek after God and find something to worship.

It is probably the only time when I sit down and read a newspaper properly. My husband thinks that The Sunday Post doesn’t qualify as a proper newspaper.

The Daily Record had nothing religious going on. There wasn’t even a Thought for The Day tucked away in a small corner. The Independent and The Scotsman both came up with the goods. One article criticised doctors for having religious beliefs and sharing those beliefs with their patients. Another article was a compilation of comments from letters about the variety of beliefs. Another article reported that a church whose minister had lost his job on account of his sexual orientation were wanting him reinstated.

Pickings were lean.

One story that caught my imagination but had no obvious connection with religion was the one about the baby. A mother had given birth to twins. They were premature. One child, the wee girl, was well and thriving. The other, the boy, had struggled and apparently given up the fight. After 20 minutes of trying to revive the baby, doctors declared him to be dead and handed him over to his mother for a last cuddle before the post mortem. She held him close to her skin for two hours. He twitched and the doctors said it was a reflex action. He twitched again, and again and then opened his eyes. It was all very amazing.

I guess I liked the idea of a mother’s touch doing something that the science of the doctors had failed to do. I liked the idea of skin to skin touching, and the imparting of warmth and the sound of the mother’s heartbeat to the infant’s ears.

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

So the mother never breathed into the child’s nostrils and restored life that way. She just held him close. I don’t know if they will ever be able to explain the science of what actually took place during those two hours she held him.

There are times when I feel the need for God to hold me close and restore life to my spirit. I flit into His presence, fidget while I am there, and then dash off to do the next thing. Imagine being in someone’s embrace for two hours. My mother used to boast that she fell asleep every night in my father’s embrace – that was more than two hours, but it doesn’t count because she was asleep all of the time.

Life is more than just breathing. God did not intend for me to simply exist whereby I inhale and then I exhale and nothing much else happens. The baby opened its eyes and began to interact with the world. Living is about interacting. I encounter the world and I change it for the better – that is living.

If God was into accusations – which He is not – he might accuse me of not really living at all. Rather than encountering the world and changing it – I strive to avoid the world and protect myself from the harm that it could inflict. That is not really living at all.

"Life is the ability to exercise all one’s vital power to the fullest; death is the opposite.” (G. Livingston, “The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament”)

I am breathed upon by God, endowed with the gift of life that is not to be squandered or frittered away. Perhaps, anything less than living life to the fullest is an insult to God.

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