Revelations of a Drowning Man
In my youth, I was never much the rebel; I conformed with the best of them. If there were rules around, I would follow them (generally), and the fear of being caught in contravention was no small thing for me.
There were, however, always unreasonable rules that would have prevented my fun had they been adhered to. Childhood is about fun, and to follow such rules would have been a crime in and of itself. So my friends and I would often throw snowballs at dinnertime in the school yard, or climb over the school railings to use the football pitch, or toy fight in the swimming pool. I saw no harm in breaking any of these rules. Any of them, that is, except the ‘don’t fight in the swimming pool’ rule. I was a good ‘toy-fighter’ as a child when my feet were on solid ground, but in the pool I lost all advantage. As a former friend held my head underwater for what must have been about 3 hours I began to realise a few things ;
Firstly, the life guard who was so fastidious in his application of the ‘no splashing’ rule, was annoyingly not so earnest in his desire to put an end to the supposedly outlawed act of ‘dunking’.
Secondly, that plaster was getting mightily close to my face and the chances that it was unused were pretty slim.
And thirdly, I am really rather fond of oxygen.
To this day I am still of the opinion that oxygen is good. You will probably all agree with this fact, even if you are not a science geek like me. To be amazed by this however, you’re probably going to have to take a short trip into geek territory with me.
Be brave. It’s worth it.
Oxygen is so vital to your body’s continued function that it doesn’t even trust you to consciously control it. Until I just mentioned it, you had been sat there happily breathing in and out over and over without a moment’s awareness of the fact. We can last for about 40 days without food, between three and six days without water, and yet mere minutes without oxygen and your body begins to shut down.
Your brain is a magnificently complex structure ordering your thought, your emotions and intellect, storing and recalling past events, and controlling motor function (movement), to name just a few of its functions. However, the brain is not very good at repairing itself and, when part of it dies, it is gone for good. Unfortunately, a lack of oxygen reaching the brain in the blood for more than a period of about 6 minutes can lead to brain death and leave a person either profoundly disabled or dead. Without oxygen, our brains cease to function and eventually die.
The rest of your body is also quite keen on oxygen. You may have noticed this when involved in any kind of prolonged physical activity. The ‘cramp’ that you feel is in part the result of the build up a lactic acid which is, in turn, the result of your muscles trying to function without oxygen. Muscles can do this for a short while, but it is an ultimately inefficient and short lived process. Without oxygen, we lose muscle function.
Another less vital function of the air we breathe will have been observed by anyone that has ever come into contact with helium balloons. The air that surrounds our vocal chords affects the sound produced when you speak. If you inhale helium, your voice sounds higher. Other gases, such as Xenon will lower your voice (though it is inadvisable to do so as heavier gases can settle in your lungs and cause suffocation, which nobody likes). Without oxygen (as well as the few other gases that make up the air we inhale) we are unable to even utter a sound.
The air we breathe gives life and function to our mind, bodies and voice; to our thoughts, actions and words.
In the account of the creation of Man in Genesis Chapter 2, we are given an amazing image of animation of the formerly inanimate Adam. God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature’ (Genesis 2:7). God breathes life into the brain, muscles and voice of the man. Interestingly, the word used here for ‘breath’ is also used elsewhere to mean ‘spirit’. God breathes his Spirit into the man, animating him, giving function to his thoughts, actions and words. Adam is created a fully functioning man, able to think Godly thoughts, to act on the good things of God and to speak the things that God wants him to speak. All this is inspired, enabled and made possible by the Spirit that the Lord breathed into him.
Unfortunately, we see shortly after this account of Adam’s creation that he and his wife are cut off from this necessary air supply. In Chapter 3 we see the fall of mankind, the entry of sin into the human race, and the suffocation of the human soul, separated as it was from the presence of God.
This suffocation leads to the malfunction and death of the soul. We find ourselves unable to do good, constantly returning to ways that hurt ourselves, others and offends a holy God. The impairment of our thoughts, actions and words is clearly observable as we lose control of them. This is why we find ourselves doing, saying and thinking things that we later regret.
Try as we may, we are unable to free ourselves from this experience. Paul points out that in this state we are slaves of sin (Romans 6:17), and that our sin brings death (physically and spiritually)(Romans 7:11). As surely as a drowned man cannot resuscitate himself, a man dead in his sin is unable to do anything about his essential problem.
Here we arrive at the glorious news of the Gospel. Through Jesus, God once again breathes his Spirit into man. Romans 8:1-10 says:
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God breathes His Spirit into us, once again giving us life. The Christian finds his or herself in the position of no longer being a slave to sin. God breathes correct function back into our thoughts, our words and actions. We are made able to follow him, to set our minds on the Spirit and to live accordingly.
When a person becomes a Christian, God breathes life into where there was once only death. This is not however a one time thing. As Christians, God continues to sanctify us, shaping our thoughts, actions and words with His Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Yet we often find ourselves ‘holding our breath’. God breathes and we run away from his air supply. We cease to pray, to worship, to read Scripture, and to commune with other believers. This leads to a malfunction.
As amazing and vital as oxygen is, the breath of God is infinitely more amazing and vital.
As God breathes out, whether it be for the first time or the ten billionth time, breathe in. And as you exhale, let it be with words, thoughts and actions that glorify God.