Romans 8: 26-27 (NRSVA)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
According to an article I read the other day breathing is ‘in’ at the moment. This is at first glance a puzzling observation as when has breathing ever been ‘out’? How can something we do 23,000 times a day ever be subject to fads or fashions? What the writer meant was that the wellness industry is putting a lot of emphasis right now on how learning to breathe deeply can improve our health. It is also true that living through a respiratory pandemic understandably concentrates our minds on the importance of breath.
I sing and do yoga and pilates, and am currently attempting a ‘couch to 5K’, so I certainly believe in good breathing techniques. One of my few memories of my father, who died when I was ten, was him teaching me the techniques of ‘auto-hypnosis’ (largely deep breathing and concentrating on relaxing parts of the body) to help my overactive brain get to sleep. As I recall, it didn’t always work, but I usually had a pleasant 15 minutes or so of relaxation before the ever present words in my head started up again.
As a result there is something exceedingly comforting about knowing that the Spirit works within us at a deeper than word level. When we don’t know where to go, how to be, what to say; when we can’t find the words to speak to God it doesn’t matter. The Spirit intercedes with a sigh — a long slow exhale of whatever we need to breathe out to God.
The world chokes
The Spirit sighs out its pain
Our hearts burn
The Spirit sighs out our anguish
My mind shudders
The Spirit sighs out my questions, my anxiety, my fear
There are no words between us, God.
But the space is not empty.
It is filled with a sigh
Too deep for words.