Three minutes of encouragement from Hebrews 3:13.
I wasn’t far into A Conspiracy of Breath when I realized I was in over my head. I surmised the mind behind this story-telling is brilliant. It’s not that this novel is difficult to read; it’s that it is so weighty, so substantive. I realized that not only was I in the presence of a mind far greater than my own, but that I was swimming in deep waters spiritually. Reading A Conspiracy of Breath would be work, but pleasant work; this might not always be comfortable, but it would prove to be exhilarating. As I continued to read I was swallowed up by—what can I call it?—a powerfully sensory experience. The book awakened my senses and commanded and demanded of them in ways that were powerful, and sometimes taxing.
By now you’re rightly surmising that this is no shallow, bubblegum novel that leaves you with warm fuzzies and saccharine morality. This is a deeply probing, soul-searching, heart-turned-wrong side-out kind of story, told with consummate skill.
There is behind this story a massive intellect, a soul of deep dimensions, a heart alive with a panoply of sensory vocabulary. It is an intimate novel. One feels oneself being drawn, via the story, into a depth of relationship with the author that feels profoundly personal. But—and I’m struggling here—my words simply don’t convey the depth and power of my experience with this book. I’m still reflecting, still ruminating, and still emoting over this read, even now days removed from turning the last page.
This is, then, an exceedingly well-written novel. Yet on another level this functions also as an apologia for the idea that Priscilla, co-laborer of the Apostle Paul, is the author of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews. In the introduction and a concluding “Author’s Note” Scott sets out her convictions about this hypothesis. She believes this is not only possible, but probable (397). She writes to convince us of this, yet says, “my book does not pretend to be anything but fiction” (398).
So I should say something regarding this matter of Priscilla as the author of Hebrews. Personally, I have never been uncomfortable with agnosticism about the authorship of Hebrews. The Scriptural and historical record has left with us in this position. The author rightly quotes Origin, “Only God knows the truth as to who actually wrote this epistle” (vii). So I’ve never felt the need to hazard a guess about who wrote the letter. It makes no ultimate difference, for if it did, God would have left us record of this fact. To speculate—and that is what this book, as a novel, does—is not something we need in order to receive and live fully in the revelation given to us by God in Hebrews.
Is it possible that Priscilla wrote Hebrews? Well, I don’t think one could say it is impossible. Is it, then, possible? Sure, I guess. But so are dozens of other possibilities. None of which help me go any deeper into Hebrews or with the God it holds forth to us.
So in that regard, I must say, I didn’t come away convinced. Others will conclude differently. At this level, A Conspiracy of Breath provides an opportunity to carefully weigh what the Bible actually says about such matters. This is a good and profitable exercise for us all.
But Oh! There is so much more that makes A Conspiracy of Breath a worthy read. I am convinced that several re-reads of this book would yield up treasures I’ve overlooked as in this first reading I found myself swimming in the intellectual depth, the sensory tsunami, and spiritual deep-end of this book.
Those who study psychology have long told us that the two basic needs of humans are security and significance. We exhaust ourselves over a lifetime trying to gain these two gems. We sell all—sometimes literally—to make them ours. We drain our bodies, minds, schedules and bank accounts, sacrificing their contents at the altar of security and significance.
It comes as no surprise—or perhaps, for you, it does—that Jesus perfectly addresses both of these fundamental needs. In fact, He created those needs within us. He crafted the glove of our nature to fit the hand of His grace.
We strive for security—or love—through our own efforts. We fail. Every human relationship is sabotaged by the sin and selfishness resident in both parties. Only a Savior who chose not to protect Himself, but give Himself on our behalf can ever provide the safety and security of perfect love. Jesus did this through His crucifixion on our behalf. You and I are secure “in Christ.” “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). God’s grace has been “freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). Our security lies not in what we have done nor in what we are doing, but in who He has made us to be in Christ.
We grasp after significance—or importance—in our own strength. We give ourselves to jobs, careers, hobbies, dreams, etc. in an attempt to make our lives count. We all want to know our lives have mattered, that we have contributed in a meaningful way to something of worth. Jesus has already done this through His call on our lives. We are “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling” (1 Corinthians 1:2). You and I are significant “in Christ.” Our significance is not wrapped up in what we do for Christ, but in who He has made us to be by calling us to Christ.
Here it is in a simple statement. Ponder this. Pray over this. Ask God to bring the reality of this home to the depths of your soul.
I am loved not because I do, but because I am.
I am significant not because I do, but because I am.
Jesus changes who I am in an instant (by regeneration – being born again). He changes what I do over time (by sanctification – growth in Christ-likeness).
Because Jesus loves me for who I am and not because of what I do, I need not wait to be at rest.
Did you catch that? I need not wait to be at rest!
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)
I am prayerfully asking God to bring that rest to the deepest core of my heart and life. I’m asking Him to do the same for you.
At the precise moment that Jesus died “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51). And thus heaven is opened to us “by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrew 10:20). Now “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).
I recently listened with great blessing to this message by the late Rev. Keith M. Bailey as he unfolded the marvels of the torn veil and an open heaven. I know you’ll be as blessed as I was: The Veil Torn. Heaven Opened.