Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

faces of compassion

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
Psalm 139: 1-2, 13-14 NRSV

As I was pondering the words of this psalm, I ran across a meditation that referenced a mask in the sense of a persona or pretense we sometimes use to present ourselves to others that often hides parts of ourselves from them that would help them know us more authentically. It struck me at that moment how different that use of mask is from the masks (face coverings) we have come to know during the pandemic where we might be protecting others from parts of ourselves that could make them very ill or even kill them.

The common thread between these two uses of the word mask and also, I think, the words of Psalm 139 is the experience of being vulnerable. (Note: vulnerable comes from the Latin word wounded.)

I’m not going to spend time in this meditation talking about the different kinds of vulnerability as it relates to the way we use masks. Rather, I’d like to focus on vulnerability as it relates to how God made us and, in so doing, how God shows God’s creative love and graciousness to us.

The Psalmist declares the discovery that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You and I perhaps recognize that in our own inward reflections we feel very vulnerable (wounded) when it comes to this description of who we are created to be. We can think of plenty of examples in how we have lived our lives that would not show that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.

Yet it is this God who has created us in God’s image and it is this God who reveals God’s self to us in the creation (nature), in Jesus, and in other persons whom God also created in God’s image—whether they be like us or very unlike us. In nature we discover God’s image in what God has also created “fearfully and wonderfully” in addition to ourselves as humans. In Jesus we encounter God’s woundedness most clearly in Jesus’ death on the cross and also all of the other ways Jesus showed us the life of God as servant God and forgiving God. In each other we discover in our connections and otherness that it turns out we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” when we live our lives in God’s love, graciousness, and forgiveness.

Traditionally we celebrate the season of Epiphany as a time when God makes known to us God’s self in moments of revelation and insight. Part of the revealing may be to recall again that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and thereby be in touch with our own vulnerability that truly shows we are God’s now and always.

So, I leave you with this: as you seek to become wise and live faithfully today, keep this in mind: how can I, in my connections and my otherness, discover more fully how I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God?

Prayer...

O God who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, continue to show us moments each day as to how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Keep us living curiously that we may discover even in our wounds and shortcomings the goodness of your creation. Forgive us our sins and heal our brokenness that we may serve those around us who are most vulnerable. Amen.

Keith Hammer

Keith Hammer

Retired ELCA pastor

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jim Grunow

    Thanks, Keith, for another encouraging, Gospel centered piece of sharing. Did not know that “vulnerable” was from the Latin word for “wounded”. No wonder we males especially (including me) have trouble being vulnerable. We (including me) tend to cover up our woundedness and want to appear strong.

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