BREATH is a Name.


When I think about Ellis being born, I recall hearing a long time ago how the Hebrew name for God ("YHWH") has been understood to be the sound of breathing. God is “To Be” or “I Am”. The Breath of Life. It is such a beautiful revelation and reflection.

The reason this comes to mind when I think about Ellis being born is that it means he came out of the womb saying God’s name. He actually didn’t even come out crying. He looked at Shawna and I with the same surprise as we looked at him with. It was a bit humorous to us, but at that moment, we all just stared at each other, breathing; speaking the name of God. YHWH. Unbeknownst to us. But known by God.

Recalling that moment with this consideration is extremely powerful and mesmerizing for me. But I'd be missing its purpose to not allow it to inform this very moment; the ever-present moment. All people breathing, saying the name of God. Myself included, now, sitting here and typing these words.

“…when they ask me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?”
And God said to Moses, “YHWH.”

– Exodus 3.13/14 

What is so moving about this to me currently is how insignificant breathing is to us. We may not even care that our breathing is divinely significant, but that in no way reduces God’s affection or closeness. I think about how other religions have used a form of meditation that focuses on their breath to still their minds and see that as a remarkable expression of our innate desire for God.

This kind of information could easily be something we are quickly inspired by and then forget or become numb to. That leads me to one of the most challenging disciplines and virtues of Christianity (not to mention, overlooked): sensitivity. God is so much like our breath! Without conscious effort and commitment, this vital and powerful presence in our lives can be completely ignored, but ignorance holds no authority over it. It remains. Vitally important, It remains. But times come when we are gasping for breath and we start paying attention.

I get then why the psalmist would write in the 34th Psalm, "YHWH is near to the brokenhearted," but perhaps that is another way to say that the brokenhearted are near to YHWH. When we realize our need for breath and sit with that knowledge, we live differently.  We notice our fragility. We realize our dependance. It was present to us before we realized it, but our lives are changed when we sit with It. God is so much like our breath.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
– Psalm 51:17

Josh Pinkston