It was about a year ago that I first understood, in a tangible way, that the wind is the breath of God. More than a trite metaphor, like thunder being the angels bowling in heaven, some of my most intimate experiences of the Divine have come through this recognition. As I write this, a windy thunderstorm is shaking the trees in our neighborhood, reminding me yet again of this truth.
I am drawn to thinking of the wind this way because it is an intimate reminder that the Creator is constantly involved in creation, not some absent clockmaker who designed the cogs, wound it up, and took his hands off. I remember sitting outside in Albuquerque, NM, last year and watching an oncoming monsoon approach. The desert air whistled and moved about excitedly, the sound was a rushing tide of cool air, bringing more than just relief to the hot day, but a sense of renewal and life that was absent just moments before. The prayer flags hanging on our porch were being whipped around, and it made total sense that God was breathing in the beauty of the prayers and breathing out life. We learned to say the YHWH prayer, which in itself is a matter of breathing in, and out, repeating Yah on the inhale, Weh when exhaling.
A second time, God stirred me from my bed and drew me outdoors to our labyrinth at midnight, and as I paced the ground, circling around the cross, turning to face it in each section of the path, I noticed the trees swaying, seeming to rejoice and praise the Creator who was so clearly present, walking in the cool of the evening. I talked in more detail about it here.
This weekend, I spent some time at my favorite retreat house in Carlisle, PA called Still Waters. In a beautifully designed house built with all reclaimed wood, I spent two days sitting in silence, praying, and floating on a kayak in the river next to it. Watching the river reminded me again of this truth about God’s breath and the wind, as I saw and experienced how the Creator interacts with creation.
Breathing was especially a theme for me, as I went to bed that night having asthma issues and not having my medicine with me. I very rarely have issues during the summer and didn’t bring my inhaler. As my body labored to breathe all night long to the point that I couldn’t sleep, I found consolation in the irony of my situation, the limited nature of my own ability to breathe while recognizing the depth and true divine power of God’s breath.
Because breath is the first way humans experienced God. In Genesis, while God speaks the rest of creation into existence, and even molds from clay the groundling, life and therefore entrance into Eden begins with God breathing into Adam. Humanity’s first divine revelation wasn’t a loud bang, a bolt of lightening, but the breath of God. It makes me wonder, was it a gentle stirring, like the soft ripple in a creek, or were the trees of the knowledge of good and evil and life shaking and bowing their branches when Adam arose for the first time?
Christians get so caught up into discernment, what it means to “hear God.” But we’ve been trained, I think, that we ought to wait for the voice of God, or the “word of God” to come to us. How hard, and incredibly vague, is that! Try to explain that to a child; “What does God’s voice sound like?” We read stories like the calling of Samuel and develop notions that our own calling in life will come when God wakes us up in the middle of the night, in a loud Bill Cosby Voice, “BRIAN!” Perhaps all we ought to need is to seek out the breath of God, the slight whisper of God’s pneuma. The Holy Spirit may not come in the loud voice we wish for.
Recognizing the wind as the breath of God doesn’t make the task of spiritual discernment any more tangible, in theory. It does, I think, help relieve the burden of an explicit call from God in all manners of life. For me this weekend, experience of the breath of God was an experience of God, a reassurance of God’s presence, protection, provision, and love for me and my life in whatever decisions I make. At the very least, for me, approaching creation in this way forces me into the “one thing” of spiritual discernment that is essential–an earnest seeking out of God. As I acknowledge God’s presence in the little things of the world, the constant and abiding things like the wind, I take a step (anywhere from a baby step to a giant dive) into an experience with God. It starts my journey inward, it whets my appetite for more. So I take a deep breath, and listen for the quiet whisper of God’s pneuma, spirit, nudging me into communion with the Divine.