Fearfully and Wonderfully

A few years ago I was driving past the Kitty Hawk Police Department as the community was gearing up for our annual OBX Marathon Weekend. I passed their information sign, which usually carries messages about changing your smoke detector batteries or remembering to buckle your seatbelt. I chucked when I saw the Marathon Weekend message: “You can run, but you can’t hide! Good luck from the Kitty Hawk Police Dept.” Haha!

We continue our journey into Psalm 139 today, delving farther into how much we are known by God. In the first half of this incredibly beautiful writing, the Psalmist assures us that God knows our going out, our coming in, our rising up, our sitting down, and that his hand is upon us in every moment of every day. We join with the Psalmist in his wonder and awe of God’s love for us. To be known by the creator of the universe is mind-blowing, indeed.

But how well does he know us? When did his knowing begin?

The second half of the psalm dives deeper. Here we learn that God himself was the one who formed us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Ponder that for a second. This tells us that God has been a present in our lives from our very inception. He not only created the universe, he created us and all living things that move in the wombs of their mothers:

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

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

God’s work is wonderful. I think that is something important to remember when we encounter people (also formed in the wombs of their mothers) who do not look, vote, or think like us. God is with each one of us in our unborn state, and he loves and cherishes us all equally.

15  My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

It is a profound thing to realize that God beheld you with his own eyes when you were unformed and made in secret. There are no secrets from God. Nothing can be hidden from his light or his love.

In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.

God has planned to love you and be with you all the days of your life, even before you took your first breath. And hallelujah, when you come to the end, he is still with you, and you are still with him.

17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

What does this say to you today about your importance to God? What is God teaching you about the sanctity of life and his activity in bringing you about? Can you find comfort in knowing that not only was he with you before your very beginning, but he will be with you when you come to the end?

This Psalm is sometimes labeled “The Inescapable God.” It is a reminder to us that we may run, but we can never hide. God is in every moment of our every moment. Thanks be to God!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Nathan Dixon, Age 7

You Know Me

Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with my 14-month-old grandson. He is in the active/touching everything/put stuff in his mouth/try-to-climb-the-unclimbable stage of toddlerhood, so I purchased a large, sturdy play fence. We established one area as a kid-friendly zone, and put the 100 lb. Labrador Retriever on the other. It proved to be a good purchase, as we could sit in the kid zone and enjoy him playing without worrying for his safety. The dog wasn’t thrilled, but she got over it.

Today’s reading is the 139th Psalm. I have to tell you how excited I was that this is in this week’s lectionary, as it is one of my favorite psalms. It introduces the incredible notion that God knows us. Not just “knows” us as a people, or a nation, but really KNOWS us. Intimately. Personally. Closely. Familiarly.

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

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.

How can the creator of the universe know us in such detail? How can the One who told the moon when to set and the stars where to spin know our very thoughts from far away? Why would he bother?

You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.

It almost amuses me to think that God knows the word that is about to be on our tongues even before we say it. How it must dismay him when we actually say it! He knows us this well AND HE LOVES US ANYWAY.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Like a child inside a play fence, we are safely hemmed in by the One who made us. He desires to protect us, to surround us with grace, and to heal us with his mercy. Again I ask, why?

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

The psalmist speaks of the awe we feel in knowing how perfectly God knows us. He loves us so much that he is present in our every waking and sleeping moment.

What does it mean to you to know that God searches you and knows you to the very depth of your soul? Does it bring you comfort to know that you can never be alone? Is it a balm in your loneliness? Does it help you to realize that there is no sin you could ever commit that is beyond the reach of his understanding and forgiveness? Does it strengthen you to realize that with such a God, who is so close within you, nothing from the outside can harm you or separate you from his love?

Such knowledge is too wonderful. Such knowledge is so high, we cannot attain it. But we’ll take it anyway.

Rejoice, and be glad.

You Search Out My Path by Wende Pritchard

Inescapable

Have you ever watched a toddler test the limits of a parent’s authority? There seems to be a strong learning curve there. Mom and Dad said don’t touch that. I want to touch that. My two-old-brain is now in conflict. I want to touch that, but history has shown that I will get in trouble for touching that.

Maybe.

And so I give into my desire to touch that.

So many of us are acting like two-year-olds these days. We think, somehow, that we will get away with things that we know God has said, “DON’T TOUCH THAT.”

Don’t touch that other woman’s husband.

Don’t touch that alcohol or drug.

Don’t touch that nasty post you are about to type.

Don’t touch that temptation to speed on the highway, text while you’re driving, or swim without a lifeguard.

Don’t touch that desire to “assert your rights” at the expense of complying with a safety requirement.

Don’t touch that need to vent your anger in some vain attempt at finding relief for your pent-up feelings.

Just don’t touch that.

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

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.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

For all the comfort that comes with knowing that God hems us in and lays his hand upon us, there also comes a warning when we are reaching out for something we shouldn’t touch. God is behind us and before us. He knows all of our ways. He will lay a hand of restraint on us.

God is inescapable.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Like a two-year-old, we need God’s right hand to hold us fast. We give in too easily to things that would harm us. No matter where we go, God is already there.


11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

God is a good parent, who waits in the darkness for us to need him. Like a tired dad who knows the toddler is going to try to climb out of the crib and get hurt, he stays alert and ready. The darkness won’t cover our misdeeds, for darkness is as light to God. His love is there to keep us safe.

So when you are tempted to flee to the farthest ends of bad behavior and have things your own way, remember that God’s hand is there to lead you, guide you, direct you, and restrain you. You can’t avoid him. You can’t run. You can’t even hide. He is discerning your thoughts before you even have them. So save yourself and take the easy way out.

Just don’t touch that.

The Farthest Limit of the Sea by Wende Pritchard

Connections

The logic of a four-year-old is astounding. Connor and I sat on the floor and created four animals out of mega blocks. We made a moose, a dog, an alligator, and a giraffe. Then Connor realized that our animals were likely to go running amuck, so we needed to build a fence. We sorted out all the short four-peg blocks for the bottom row, and then started to build a second layer. I handed him a single-peg block to begin the top layer and he said, “Nana, we need one with two or three so we can connect the bottom row and the animals can’t get out. Otherwise they can kick through it.” He picked up a three-peg block and placed it across two of the bottom row blocks, connecting them.

Yup. Confounded and corrected by a four-year-old.

I was reminded of the simple lesson that “together, we can do more.” I belong to a denomination that is highly connectional, and that is our greatest strength…and our most vulnerable aspect. A global connection is a heavy and weighty thing. When we think and dream together, it is powerful. When our differences are too big to overcome, the connection starts to break.

That is the macro-lesson, and I don’t have any answers for it. But taken in the micro, this logic of a four-year-old can reap many applications. Marriages are strengthened when both parties ensure the connection is strong by putting the needs of the other first. Families are happier when the connections are real, uninterrupted, intentional, and focused. Work teams function better when roles and responsibilities are interconnected and people work together toward a common goal.

I spent time with a large group of friends at a restaurant recently and realized at the end of the meal that I had not exchanged any words with one of them, other than our initial greeting. I was regretting this until my husband, who sat directly across from him, remarked that he was playing games on his phone the entire evening. Suffice it to say that it is hard to connect with someone when he or she is already connected to something else.

But to take it even smaller, think about your connection to your Maker. From the moment of your conception you were connected, even if you didn’t realize it.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

God knit us together in our mother’s womb. The choice of brown or blue eyes, black or blond hair, vanilla or chocolate skin, is all part of his artistry. He is our first and most intimate connection, and like Connor’s animal fence, his connection with us acts as a safety barrier if we just follow his direction:

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

It is all too easy to disconnect today. That thing in your pocket that “connects” you to the world disconnects you from the people right across the table from you. Real connection is what we were built for from the very beginning.

When we lose our connection with each other, we lose our humanity. When we lose our connection with God, we lose all that is holy.

Where is God calling you to connect today? Do you need to reach out to someone who is being ignored (or ignoring you) and have a real conversation? Do you need to stop the crazy of your life and reconnect with God? Are you so busy doing for others that you need to connect with your own soul?

We aren’t meant to do this life solo. God longs to be fully engaged in our daily everything and creates community for us to build one another up and be his people. Let him come in with his mega blocks and provide a safe space. Together, with God and each another, we CAN do more.

Connor’s Animal Fence