I’ve been thinking (as I tend to do) about the Hebrew word for Soul. נפש or “Nefesh” lately. It also means neck and breath. Basically, what the idea is is that your soul is each breath you take. You breath in the gift of life from God and breath it back out and return it to God. Your soul is you being alive. The thing that animates you. It is a gift that you have to trust God with in and through each breath.
I went to a conference on TF Torrance this week. He’s a Scottish theologian who was brilliant and incredibly faithful. The place where we sat and listened to him talk was at Edinburgh University’s outdoor recreation center at Loch Tay. Here it is.
What being at the Loch meant was: I got to go sailing. I love sailing. You may not know this about me, because I don’t have a boat and don’t make as much effort as I ought to in order to be on the water. I spent two afternoons bracketed by lectures on one of my favorite theologians out on the water. I chased the wind, righted a capsized boat, and used words like “port” and “coming about.” I was breathing out there. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do sometimes. But when you sail…boyhowdy.
I find that really letting myself breathe means being where I am. It’s a challenge to do. Despite the joys of this time across the ocean there are hurts (both new and old) that need healing. I’m beginning to see new ways that God waits for us. I used to think the Lord waited for me to shape up, to do better, to be more faithful. I am beginning to see that God waits for me to slow down. To not brush over wounds whose healing is important, to not rush through life in unstoppable busyness, to receive life in each moment that is given. God waits for us to sit with ourselves and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is what faithfulness means.
It’s not easy to receive each moment as a gift. Yet, even in the hardest moments our breathing in and breathing out point to the gift of life that comes from the God who has redeemed all of creation in Jesus. Our very act of breathing bears witness to the God who has redeemed each moment in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
And so I continue to learn to breathe. In theology lectures, writing sermons, over my many cups of tea, in the hospitality of the people here, and in chasing the wind and spray on the occasional Loch.