Scripture Exposition

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(Image courtesy of cenaclesoflife.org)

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. – Romans 8:26


While collaborating on a children’s Sunday School lesson, I came across this scripture from Romans.  Somehow I had never really paid attention to the passage.  Over the countless times I have read Romans, I never noticed that the Holy Spirit “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”  It’s a powerful image.  I think of all those occasions I am too exasperated for words.  When, because I am tired, stressed, overworked, irritated, etc., I find my body suddenly so heavy that it crumbles under the weight and the air is forced from my lungs.  Not an audible, angry sigh, but a deep, low sigh of resignation.  Do we push God with our repetition of sins to this point so that the Holy Spirit is left with sighs of resignation from our sinful ways?  How profoundly saddened must God be with the state of humanity.  In the more than 100,000 years humans have walked the Earth, we continue to hate, war, steal, lie, kill, destroy, and hurt one another.  When we don’t use our hands or weapons, we use words.  It must feel like the longest infomercial ever on sin to God. 

While part of me is deeply grateful to know that God does help us in our weakness and compensate for ignorance, I feel intensely guilty that I cause God to feel… well, depressed about my state.  To think that my divine parent watches me mess up over and over again on the exact same things.  That no lesson is ever learned.  No moral ever heeded.  I appear destined to sin over and over again like a broken record.  The weight of that truth causes me to sigh deeply, perhaps too deeply for words.  My body pauses right at the point between exhalation and inhalation, and then I get it.

We must exhale the used up air.  Out with it comes the toxins, the carbon dioxide that would poison my body if it was not expelled.  Then my body instinctively draws breath.  With it comes new air, rich and full of life giving oxygen.  It enters my lungs and quickly spreads to my blood, coursing through my body.  Only now I picture the Holy Spirit rushing inside with the fresh air.  That sigh has begun a process of purification.  My body has forced the old air from my lungs and now it is ready to receive, to be rejuvenated.  That is precisely what the Holy Spirit does, what it desires to accomplish. 

Only when I realize the pain, the suffering, and the sorrow I cause God, do I want to do everything in my power to end the vicious cycle of sin.  I breathe in a second chance, or maybe the umpteenth chance.  Might I slip yet again?  Of course, I have to acknowledge that possibility, but right now I know, and God knows, I want it to be otherwise, not just for God, but for me.  I want to be better because God wants me to be better.  Like a little child, I don’t want to disappoint my parent.  More than that, the intrinsic value of being better is intermingled with my desire to please God.  I focus on blotting the desire to sin out from me.  For this moment I feel in control, like I can stave off the the urge to sin from actualizing, because I have the power of the Holy Spirit on my side.  Not just on my side; inside, rushing through my veins.  I wonder if next time the Holy Spirit won’t have to sigh.  Instead, God will quickly draw in breath from surprise, pleased to see a change.  The change God’s been waiting for these many years.  If not 100,000 years, then the past 30.  It’s been a long time for God, for me.  I’m taking this change one breath at a time.

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