Most of us never grow out of the desire to mold clay. My wife, Jill, used to make modeling clay (homemade playdough) from flour, salt, water, and food coloring. The clay provided hours of enjoyment as they created new shapes and forms.
Professional sculptors using high quality clay or other materials such as rock can sculpt or chisel a human form that is both attractive and realistic in size and dimension.
Still, I’ve never seen a sculptor breath life into his or her creation. As the debate and controversy rages over cloning stem cells and animals and humans, the fact remains that we can’t breath life into another person.
God chose to breath life into humans. The second account of creation, Genesis 2, beautifully imagines God breathing into man’s nostrils. Every breath we take is still from God and only because of God.
In my novel, High Places, I wrote a scene depicting a father blessing a son by spitting water on him. In Soga culture, a form of blessing is to fill the mouth with water and spit in the face of one you are blessing. I never received this privilege but Muto, who died last year, blessed my truck in this way, that I wouldn’t get in wrecks and that it would be used to help people in Soga.
Here is the scene from High Places.
Mutaka closed his eyes.
Was he praying or sleeping?
Whoever Mutaka was praying to, Tenwa wished would bring the answers.
Mutaka picked up the jar of water and his cheeks sucked in when he opened his mouth to drink it. His lips sagged but closed around the side of the jar and water flowed in and some down his chin. His wrinkled cheeks now puffed where crevices were.
He didn’t swallow.
What was he doing? Why didn’t he swallow the water?
Pfu! Water sprayed in a million drops on Tenwa’s face, in his eyes.
What was this? Why? What had he done to deserve . . .
“I never wanted to curse you!” Mutaka said.
“Then why? Why did you climb to the top of a termite hill and curse me to the gods?” Tenwa asked. Why had Mutaka done something he didn’t really want to do? Why grab a dog by the ears when he has done nothing and will only turn and bite you when you come back? Still, Tenwa knew what drove Mutaka to curse and stand on the hill and beat his breast and call down sickness and a dry mouth and empty stomach and shriveled groin.
Isab. He couldn’t call him father anymore. He had only one father. And though the creator didn’t beat him, he seemed to stay far away and silent. Or was he speaking through Jessica, through Mutaka, through the missionary?
O speak to me God!
Another spray of water landed on Tenwa’s face. Water dripped from his nose. He blinked from the moisture on his eyelashes and in his eyes.
“You tore down our shrine and yet . . . ”
And yet what?
Mutaka shuffled his feet in the dust as he circled Tenwa.
“You despised your father and turned away from my advice. You stole from our neighbor when you were a young boy. Hatred was bound in your heart from the beginning. Is that what builds a clan? Or do such things in the heart of man rot his bones and the flesh of his family?”
“I still hate my father.”
“You still hate?”
“My father . . . ”
“You think your father brings hate?”
Mutaka placed the jar back on the rock. He untied the bark cloth from around his waist.
“No. You bring hate on yourself and upon your clan. Your father was not your true father.”
What was he saying?
Mutaka closed his eyes and placed his hand on Tenwa’s head.
As I shared with you in an earlier post with a link to Brent Abney’s essay about his father, we transfer life to our children. We breathe life into them or we suck life out of them.
I want to reflect this week on what I’ve done for my children. Have I exasperated my children in some way, not engaged them? Or am I breathing life into them. Before bed last night, I prayed part of St. Patrick’s Prayer over them and our home:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every one who sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.