“Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:14-15 (NIV)We instinctively hold our breath when something astonishing happens. Something which catches us by surprise, or hits us with shock tends to take our breath away. I remember the trips to the dump to get rid of the garbage while I was staying with my grandparents in northern Maine when I was a teenager. Even before we could tell otherwise, a sudden increase in flies was sufficient to tell us we were getting close. Then came the smell--youch, literally!
I would go into hibernation mode, breathing as little as possible, because the smell was so strong it was a shock to the system. You know what I did when we were finally clear of the dump? Whooosh, the biggest inhalation of fresh air I could take. That made it feel like all was well on planet earth once again. When we've gone from misery to joy it's time to inhale!
There is a refreshing for the soul that comes to one who's continued beyond the sin revealing light of God's presence. There is a breath that our soul can breathe and that is the breath of God. It is a spirit thing. Whether in Hebrew or Greek, the word translated "spirit", as in the text above (vs. 15), is the same as the word for breath. The text above tells us that a soul that is contrite is enlivened (revived) in breath (spirit) because of God's nearness. It is, in fact, God's nearness that causes the quickening.
I used to do a lot of spelunking when I was young. I don't like closed-in places so the challenge of meeting my fears gave the activity a certain allure. After you've spent a couple of hours mucking around in the dark, crawling on your knees and belly, doing contortions and squeezing through holes and cracks, you start getting a little anxious. When the decision is made to leave, you move with purpose!
Climbing out doesn't take near as long as slithering in. When you finally clear the entrance and can stand once more and see sky above you, let me tell you, you take it in with gusto. You suck all the air in around you for several cubic meters. All is good, you're truly alive, and your massive inhalation is your effort to get as much of that invigorating moment and experience in you as you possibly can.
When we come into God's presence, having paused, repented, and arisen, it's time to inhale for all we're worth! Breathe in the breath (Spirit) of God and take in the wonder and the presence of God deep into your soul. We find relief, release and the joy of our souls in the presence of the God who welcomes and accepts us. And as we breathe in, we realize,"now, this is life!"
It is astonishing to find ourselves in the presence of God, cleansed and accepted. Oh the grace that brings us welcomed into the king's chamber! In that place, God revives our soul's breath. He quickens our spirit. We know the joy of being alive with God, and that joy begins to spring up in a fountain of thankfulness and wonder.
So, in that place before God, having arisen, open your heart and soul and inhale. Take a deep breath. Breathe freely the breath of life that God so freely gives to revive your soul, and let the joy of the Lord rise up within you and spill out.