It all started when I brought Psalm 139 to bed with a hot steaming mug of chamomile tea, mulling it over in my mouth, breathing in its earthy fragrance and then licking the honey resting at the bottom. I stopped abruptly on verse 14, and at first the words seem embarrassingly forthright, prideful even: “fearfull-y and wonderful-ly made.” It felt hard to say, a passage that I would pass over quickly, like I was reading about breasts in the Song of Solomon. Inappropriate. Overly intimate. But I kept chewing over these words, knowing there was a truth I was dodging. Finally, I fell asleep.
All through the night “fearfully and wonderfully made” wound its way through my dreams, and then appeared with the first light of morning. Repetition had stripped the verse of the false veneer of pride. The first jumps of delight appeared and I turned this key over and over in my hand, as if it was a foreign object I’d searched for as Mary for the secret garden key.
I was around her age, ten, when I lost it.
That first school day in Ohio’s rich farm country, twenty hours from my grammar school in Maine, I wore a white shirt with suspendered blue plaid pants, was called a clown and teased every time I opened my Eastern mouth. I stuffed any hope of an easy move into the bottom of the toy chest along with the suspendered outfit. I never wore it again. Jr. high girls can be cruel and those four years my brain ate a new channel of self-despising all other thoughts filtered into. At home I was loved, but at school I was pursued as a scapegoat of pre-teen inferiority. I proved an easy target.
Hunchback bent, I lived deformed, leaning toward those as unhealed as me expecting them to turn, a lighthouse signaling glory. False hope glimmered and was gone as each passed in front. I forgot to stand straight to receive truth from the One. I forgot to listen to that Voice always speaking, inviting, affirming, challenging.
I walked leaking life.
The One eternally holding Living water says:“My people have committed two sins; they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13 )
Cannot hold water, those I was asking to stamp “Gift” on my forehead.
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. You have swallowed death, even this death of unholy judgment. You know who I am: Your child, Your daughter, Your beloved, Your friend, Your sister.
I sit with that. The God of the Universe calls me His child, accepted just as I am, loved here and now, before I get cleaned off. A sponge, I swell, soaking up life-giving words:
If He gives me grace, perhaps I can too.
Later I go to the fitness center and after working out, find a quiet room while my children play with others. I open the scripture back up. The key is already in the verse! ”I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It is another thanksgiving! And thanksgiving has recently opened up the core of my being.
Lately I’ve started accepting the imperfect gifts of each day, thanking God, lifting each “failed” interaction up, asking Him to bless and fill them with Himself…to redeem. So why can’t I do that with myself?
Yes, I am imperfect. I will always be imperfect but my continued anger at myself and the story that has created me is not making matters easier. Can I accept God’s gift of me? Can I lift myself back up (my tiny loaves) and pray that He will bless and multiply?
Sunday evening, heavy summer sun invites us west to the Lake Michigan shore. As soon as we hit the sand, my kids dressed all in red swimsuits scatter and I tip my face to the sun, turning my ear to listen.
Summer, “thank me,” I hear.
Instead of sitting on our blanket with a book, my normal modus operandi, I begin to play too. I push rocks stuck deep at the water’s edge that look like they might have been a wicca circle and occasionally I glance up, hear my husband deep laugh helping five-year old Madeline balance on the boogy board in the waves.
God, help me too to learn balance…freedom… and to love me, because not loving me is creating a dam of my life, truncating my ability to open my arms wide, fearless.
As I push the large rocks around the wet sand, forming a cross, the voice of God comes clear. I listen: whose authority will you accept as true? The junior high girls from your past or the God of the Universe?
The question seems a bit ludicrous. “I thank You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” comes straight from scripture and who am I to question the God of the Universe’s authority?
He is the Light of the World, so why would I study someone else’s carnival mirror?
I stand on the flat rock at the center of the cross beam and lift my arms up to the sky. Who am I NOT to thank You for the gift that You have given…to refuse any gift from You? Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me and so I lift up my fullness and my emptiness, my imperfections and my gifts.
The Roman Catholic priest, Romano Guardini, writes in his essay, “The Acceptance of Oneself,” words that invite me to open the gift:
The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things. I must agree to be the person who I am. Agree to the qualifications which I have. Agree to live within my limits. … The clarity and the courageousness of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence.
The beach has emptied for dinner time and I stand, balancing on this rock cross, arms up. You loved me even while I was a sinner. And if You open-heart-pierced-hands could accept me, than who am I not to accept the gift?
And if I am a gift, so is the precious little one that just toddled up in her bathing suit covered with red cherries, splashing through the puddle beside the cross. I look into her brown face with the four new serrated white teeth and tell her that she too is a gift of God. She keeps coming back for more through the rest of the evening, eyes wide drinking love.
And this is why this self-acceptance, this thanksgiving is the opposite of pride. Being a gift does not mean the least of these is not. Being filled with this thanksgiving makes me want to go out into the highways and byways and put faces in my hands and speak truth into dry hearts. “You” teenager with the hungry, aching eyes, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.” “You” gangly man-child whose mind never grew into his body and whose arms twist in constant motion, “are fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I want to whisper it into the heart of everyone I see and on the way home I tell the cashier at the grocery store with the lovely lips and the dreary store coat, “I hope you know that you are lovely.” She smiles and light goes on in those almond-shaped eyes just for a moment.
And you, my friend, you too are a gift, and I am utterly thankful for you. You are made in the image of God and crafted with purpose. You are crazy beautiful, imprinted on every cell with His stamp. Sure we are shot through with imperfection, scarred with the pain of a violent earth, but His redemption can make new even those stories.
This piece is reposted here but I find I need to drink slowly of its truth once again as I transition in this move to PA. Perhaps it will be a gift for you, too? Consider subscribing to this site through the Connect box on the right. Together we will wrestle with truth right here at “a thirst for God”, witness redemption through simple stories.
I would love to hear in the comments: What are you thankful for streaming out of your imperfect story, your God-given personality? Perhaps writing it down will strengthen the truth in your heart.
linking with the always authentic and wisdom filled, Emily Wierenga here: