Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

fearfully and wonderfully“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 14. This verse confused me for years, but now it’s one of my favorites. I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to be “fearfully made”. How can someone be fearfully made? It’s not like God is fearful when making us, is He? I can’t really imagine God trembling as He knits us together in our mothers’ wombs, but maybe He knows we’re going to mess up and that makes Him nervous? That never seemed entirely plausible. Another theory of mine was that we were made to be in fear. Could that be true? Aren’t we made to stand in the face of injustice, at the gates of Hell and speak the truth? That doesn’t sound like it involves being fearful; it sounds more as if we are meant to be courageous. I had always heard that religious people were supposed to be “God-fearing” and that befuddled me. Of course God is all powerful. At any moment, He could destroy the world, but He is benevolent, He loves us and He wants what’s best for us. So why should I be afraid of God?

Eventually, I decided that the only resolution to my confusion was to do some research. So being the millennial that I am, I procrastinated excessively and then finally Googled it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when the bible was translated into English, “to fear” didn’t just mean “to be scared.” It meant “to respect.” Respectfully made. I am respectfully and wonderfully made. Ahh, that changes things.

So now what does it mean to make something respectfully? God is an artist: the ultimate Artist. So what would it be like for a normal human artist to make something with respect? Well, if an artist just throws some paint on a canvas would that be respectful? Probably not. If an artist is painting something respectfully, he or she is taking time to plan, think out each and every step, and make sure it’s well done. The artist will make a sketch for what the painting will eventually look like and devise a specific statement or emotion for the painting to convey. The artist will plant subtle messages that make people think about society, or a bold message calling viewers to change, or create artwork just to make people smile. It is all planned.  Once the painting is completed, it won’t just be thrown in the trash; it will be intended for a specific place to accomplish a particular purpose. Just like a masterpiece, God makes each person with a specific plan to accomplish certain things and convey certain messages.

Not every person is meant to have the gentleness of Mother Theresa, or the boldness of MLK Jr. These two people were very different and were put in this world to glorify God in very different ways. Both were human rights activists who accomplished amazing things, and the world would look very different without them. However, they weren’t the same. We sometimes forget that in our search for holiness. At least, I know that I can get caught up in seeing the holiness of others and thinking that I have to be exactly like them. I am unique and weird, and that’s okay because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s plan is so perfect that it not only allows for my weirdness, but requires it. No one else can follow God’s plan for my life, because no one else has the same strengths, weaknesses, and quirks that I have. His plan wouldn’t work for anyone else.

I do know a little about God’s plan for your life and for mine: He wants us to love. Love is self-giving. Jesus giving His life for us is the greatest act of love that ever has or ever will take place. He calls us to follow Him and give ourselves in love in whatever ways we can. But the thing is, we can’t do that nearly as well if we don’t embrace who we are. We are all called to give deeply of ourselves, but if we are fighting ourselves, then what are we supposed to give? Instead, we must all learn to embrace who we are and be at peace with that so that the love we give comes from our inner God-given peace, which is a sanctuary for His love.

So be weird, even if it goes against what society tells you to be like! There are societal pressures to conform, to fit in, to do what everybody else is doing, but God tells us to do the opposite: stand out! You see, being religious and following God is not about fitting into a mold. It’s not about acting the same way, dressing the same way or having the same routines as me or as your friends or anyone else in the world. In fact, it’s following God that will make you more you, because He created you fearfully and wonderfully and He has the perfect plan for your life that will bring you joy, fulfilment, adventure and peace. Following God, and so becoming yourself, and then proceeding to respect your awesome self makes you stand out.

You might think of things you’ve done or things you don’t like about yourself and doubt your wonderful nature. Of course, we all turn away from our wonderful nature. That’s called sinning. Sins go against God and against ourselves. We have free will and are born with original sin, which causes us to be more prone to sin. Sin is not who we are, though. God defines us. Our fearful and wonderful nature defines us. The more we reject sin and the more we strive to be wonderful, the more we become our true selves! Following God really just means being yourself, but in the truest form. It involves breaking the bad habits and bonds of sin that have been created over time. To do this, sometimes we have to deny ourselves certain worldly pleasures.

It’s tempting to look at those around us and wish we had their gifts. I seem to always be thinking “if only I was as good at math as my brother, I could use my skills to understand accounting and business to run a non-profit. That would glorify God,” or “If only I was as good at photography and writing as my friends, I could report on poverty around the world to bring awareness to it. That would glorify God,” etc. But God has a purpose for my life that only I can fulfill, and that is beautiful. Even when I forget about my talents or fail to see how they can possibly be used for God, He knows how they need to be used. That makes having a close relationship with God so important! He can see and understand the whole picture. Every last inch of it. He sees our problems, our joys, our rejection, our nature. In all the world, He knows exactly where the strengths, weaknesses and quirks He gave me can be used the best. Sometimes we wish that God would give us big flashing neon signs that say “GO HERE AND DO THIS!!!”. He doesn’t scream across the room what He wants us to do, but rather, He whispers it to us. In order for us to hear that whisper, we have to be close to Him, anticipating His words and reading His words in Scripture.

Embrace who you are, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Advertisements

Modesty: The Mirror Of Love

Modesty allows us to love, and in a world that so desperately wants and needs love, it’s a shame that more people are not striving for modesty. This probably goes against what you think of as modesty because typically when we think of modesty, or humility, we imagine people who are scared of the world or think poorly of themselves. They act timidly, avoid eye contact, and do not state what they believe for fear of offending others. If you act like that, you won’t form healthy, loving relationships. That’s not what humility is. That may be our society’s misconstrued view of it, but timidity is not modesty.

IMG_3230

True modesty is realizing that our entire worth comes from God and then striving to live in that truth. That being said, God gives us a lot of worth. I mean, He is God after all, and God is love, so He is the most loving Father that could ever exist. And we’re His kids, so yeah, we have no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about who we are. So why should we be humble when we are that awesome? We should be humble so that we can reflect the glory of God, like a mirror reflects light. I first heard of the idea of being like a mirror in a prayer that mentions St. Therese the Little Flower. She is said to have been a “mirror of angelic purity, of love strong as death, and of wholehearted abandonment to God.” (I’m not sure who that was originally accredited to, but you can see a full prayer here). Mirroring God is a beautiful thing that we should all strive for. I don’t know how they make those distorted mirrors that you see at carnivals, the ones that make an image appear skinny, fat, twisted or upside down, but arrogance is what turns the clean, smooth mirror of our souls into that type of mirror. When we become arrogant and focus on ourselves, we become inverted and twisted. That is not how we were made to be because it prevents us from reflecting the pure, perfect love that comes only from God. We are creatures of love. God created us in love and for the purpose of reflecting His love into the world. If we want to show love to anyone, whether it be our boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, parents, friends, or perfect strangers, we must first practice modesty.

In order to strive for modesty, we need to consider if what we are doing, saying and wearing is modest or not. Because we are used to applying modesty only to how women dress, considering our actions in the context of modesty is difficult. To make it easier, I suggest that instead, we consider if what we are about to say, do, or wear is loving or not.

 Living in modesty, and so living in love, hinders us from being judgemental towards others, as well as from getting jealous of others. It causes us to realize that all of those around us are our equals because they are human beings. We realize this because we recognize our fallen human nature, everyone else’s fallen human nature, and their God-given worth and beauty. When we realize that all humans are, well, human, then we realize that we cannot look down on others or judge them because they are no less than us. They may fall in different ways, but they fall and we fall. Our duty as Christians is to help each other get back up when we fall and to try to help others avoid falling by setting good example through modest dress. When we have a loving demeanor, others are less tempted to have lustful or hateful thoughts towards us. Modesty hinders jealousy, because, again, all are equal to us. They are human and we are human. They fall and we fall. They have God-given talents, just as we do. Ultimately, we are all part of the same fallen human race that is created and redeemed by God.

Truly understanding all of this would allow me to love so much deeper than I do. I wouldn’t be helping someone because I pity them, but because I love them. Instead of getting jealous of others, I would love them. Instead of being unjustly angry with someone, I would love and try to help that person. Instead of wondering if someone is worth my time, I would simply love them without question. Instead of thinking badly about myself or the mind and body that God gave me, I would love myself. If I could become a truly modest person, it would change my life. How would it change yours?