40 Days with the Holy Spirit - “Closer than my breathing . . .”

A Reflection on the First Full Week of Our Study

An awkward moment to say the least, that’s how I’d describe my encounter with a former employer. I was a young adult attending a telecom job fair when we saw each other. He greeted me with a handshake but also leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek. Ewww! As neither a family member nor a close friend, he definitely invaded my personal space and I wondered what made him think that was an appropriate way to greet me. 

I had a similar reaction to one of the devotionals last week. Perhaps, you did as well. On Day 6, Dr. Levison described Jesus’ breathing on the disciples in John 20 as a kiss, “not a kiss on the cheek . . . but a kiss square on the mouth” (21). Now this happens to be one of my favorite passages and I wasn’t at all sure I liked having this image associated with it. However, Dr. Levison’s point is important, even foundational to this study. We live in a very individualistic society - our personal rights, our personal space, our autonomy are important to us, and it makes it far too easy to keep God at an arms length and maintain our independence. But, as God’s people, we are the ones who hold up the reality, the truth, that we “belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to [our] faithful Savior, Jesus Christ” (Heidelberg Catechism). We are not our own.

Our very breath is not our own - it is God-given Spirit-breath. Following Jesus means learning to live into this truth. I don’t think it’s coincidence that this challenge in our reading came as we entered into a week of readings about prayer. Take the awkward image and set it aside if you like; but hold the teaching close to your heart. Breathe - in and out - and know you are not your own and you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with you, “closer than [your] breathing, nearer than [your] heartbeat” (Levison 23). May this time with the Holy Spirit “assure us of eternal life and make us wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for [Christ]” (Heidelberg Catechism).

Throughout the Lenten season, small groups are meeting to discuss "40 Days with the Holy Spirit" by Dr. Jack Levison. As you reflect on this text, share your thoughts and questions here on the blog. Check back often, join the conversation in the comment section, and read along if you’d like! (Copies of the book are for sale in the church office 903-597-6317.)

Many thanks to The Rev. Pamela Leach, who contributed to this post.