We take our first as a newborn baby and our last just before we die. But where does it come from? I’m not asking for the scientific explanation of how the human lungs work with oxygen to keep us breathing. I’m asking where the first breath came from when the first human breathed for the first time.
The Bible responds in Genesis 2:7 (ESV)
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Voila! CPR became a thing. God breathed his own breath into Adam to jump-start him. How long do you suppose it took Adam to “sour” that breath? I’m not speaking of literal bad breath here. I’m trying to make a metaphor for how we use the breath God has given us.
We don’t know how long it took Adam to eat the forbidden fruit after God told him not to. But there Adam was—blaming Eve when God asked him if he had eaten the fruit. It didn’t take long for Adam to use his breath in a cowardly way when confronted. He thought to save his own skin rather than taking full responsibility for the sin.
Mankind has been just as careless with God’s breath (he is only loaning it to us, after all) ever since Adam was forced out of the garden of Eden. Joseph Stalin—the brutal atheist dictator of the old communist USSR—shook his fist one last time at God while on his deathbed. It seemed an odd way to use his last breath.
If Stalin truly was an atheist (which he was by most accounts), who was he really shaking his fist at? If he didn’t believe in God, he was presumably shaking his fist at nothing but an idea he didn’t like. But if he did come to believe in God, wasn’t he putting the final nail in his own coffin by raging against God with his final breath?
How do we control our breathing?
Breath by itself does nothing (besides keeping our bodies alive, of course). The motivation behind how I use my breath—which is formed by my mind and spirit—is what controls whether my breath will be sweet or sour. But what else do we use breath for? Here is a partial list of possibilities:
- We ask questions and give answers
- We make true or false statements
- We make vows
- We give orders
- We whisper sweet nothings to our lovers
- We sing
- We compliment or insult
- We tell stories
- We laugh, cry and emote in other various ways
How well have I used my breath?
How am I using my breath? Do I breathe out words to bless a man in one moment but curse him in the next? Am I a blessing to my neighbor in how I talk to and about him? What is it about me that keeps God from literally taking my breath away? I’d like to think I will be a useful vessel for him for many years to come.
By the way, God can rightfully take what is his—like our breath—at any time and without any warning or explanation. It comes with the territory of being God.
The Bible makes this idea clear in Job 34:14-15 (ESV)
If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.
The day will come when you breathe your last. This is as sure as taxes. It might come around age 100 if you’ve lived a long life. But it might be the very next breath after you finish reading this. How will you use your last breath in this quick life, praising God or taking his name in vain one last time?
To be honest, I have not spent my life sweetening the breath God gave me. I’d like to improve on that from this day forward. If you feel the same, won’t you join me in finding ways to have a sweet breath so that God gets a good return on his investment when he reclaims it from us?
There are at least two good reasons to use our breath well. One is the joy we should experience when God receives sweet breaths from us on that day. The other is the benefits that come from “breathing well” around each other in this life while we wait for the next.