Dan Paddack is a minister at Bethel United Methodist Church in Brandenburg, Kentucky and also serves as Ministries Facilitator for the Elizabethtown District of the United Methodist Church. A graduate of the MAS program at Bellarmine, Dan also holds Divinity and Theology degrees from Louisville Seminary and Campbellsville University. Dan and his wife, Ana, have four children: Chloe, Marcos, Sandan and Andres
One of my most memorable moments as a MAS student at Bellarmine was attempting to define spirituality for myself. I remember giving this a good effort several times, and was fascinated by the many beautiful ways other students defined spirituality. Such can be hard to define because you cannot encompass spirituality merely with a few words and do it justice. Still, the effort to define spirituality was very fruitful for me.
After several attempts, I decided to define spirituality this way: “Spirituality is breathing in the presence of God so that we may breathe out the Life and Love of God in full.” No sooner did I finish that personal definition did I recall a hymn I sung since my first days in church. The hymn, “Breathe One Me Breath of God” is short, sweet and has been around for a while. The message contained in its first verse is very powerful.
Breathe on me Breath of God
Fill me with life anew
That I may love what Thou dost Love
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Rewording the beautiful King James style English to a more contemporary word, we might also say.
Be with me Trinity
Forgive me. Energize me too.
Help my heart have more of your Love,
To live and love, just like You.
Well, there is more majesty in the original lyrics than my paraphrase. But the rewording is accurate and begs two telling questions: How are we “breathing in” God in full in our lives? What purpose do we ask God to fully come into our lives?
In the first question I am asking specifically how we are feeding ourselves spiritually. In our fast-paced and busy lives, daily devotion and prayer can be squeezed from our routines. Doing that is a “spiritual asphyxiation” that leaves us numb and without energy. Does not our world need to experience much more of God’s Love, goodness and promise? Breathing in the Presence of God is vital for our lives and for a needed transformation of our world wrought with struggle and sin.
With that first question we must also ask how we can receive God “in full.” In my own faith journey I am reminding myself to praise God as The Creator, as The Redeemer, and as The Sustainer for all life. In the past, my prayer focus has been on Christ more than the God the Creator and the Holy Spirit. But I am growing convinced that my prayers, my praise and my contemplation to God as Trinity will allow me to have a fuller thanksgiving for The God that has given me and the world everything that is good?
The purpose of the second question is, well, to question purpose. Why do we ask God to live in us? Why do we take time to breathe in God’s Presence and Love? While each of us must answer this for ourselves, it is good for us to know that daily walks, prayer and contemplation with God can give us greater heart and energy for being followers of God. As Steve Harper, professor of Asbury Seminary notes, having a “missional spirituality” is one where we connect to God for a purpose and thus pray and praise with purpose. An easier way to understand is this: Spirituality is not just so we can “feel” good—although that has important value. Exploring and growing our spirituality with a purpose toward a greater love of God and neighbor is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and our world. Of this, I am fully convinced! We all need our batteries charged, but does not God give us our batteries to charge us to do good and Holy Work?
We have great news! There is plenty of the Breath of God to breathe in—more than enough for the whole world. Breathing in the Love of God brings life anew. It gives us plenty of Love to share, and plenty of energy to do as God would will. Breathe with joy! Breathe with purpose! With a world in need and our own hearts to feed, there is no reason to hold our breath.