By Joe LaGuardia
Several weeks ago one of my daughter’s classmates called her a name. When my daughter started crying, her teacher bent down, leaned in and said with all confidence, “Dear, you are perfect—God’s child—fearfully and wonderfully made.”
When I heard this story I was thankful that my daughter’s teacher was in tune to the situation and that she affirmed my daughter’s unique charm with scripture. I was touched by her response, causing me to think more carefully about Psalm 139. My daughter, like all of us, is “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Are there not places in the Bible that tell us to “fear God?” In fact, there is a myriad of scriptures that tell us just that. In contrast, Psalm 139 turns that word, “fear,” on us. While much of the Bible commands us to fear God, it also reveals that in making us, God feared us!
“Fear” is one of those King James words that can get lost in translation. When we hear it, we think of horror films or the cringing feeling we get when we see a certain insect, snake, or wild beast. It is a negative term that conjures a frigid nagging emotion that we rarely enjoy.
In the biblical sense, fear is synonymous with reverence. According to Johannes Louw, it “involves worshipping the Lord with deep respect and devotion” in an attitude of loyalty, love, trust, presence, and passion. It is worship that inspires trembling, awe, and wonder.
There is something to be said, then, if God “fearfully” made each one of us. God is devoted to our well-being, loyal to His creation, and loves us deeply. God trusts in us, is present with us, and is passionate about us. While making us, it is as if God was worshipping because we are worthy of His full attention. How else can we respond to this truth other than shout with the poet of Psalm 139 and say, “I praise you!” (v. 14)?
Looking more closely, we can glimpse the implications of this truth. For one, God created us to be intimately related to Him. We are not islands unto ourselves, but beings created for the purpose of “loving God and enjoying Him forever.”
Yet, we do not go it alone; when God calls us into a relationship with Him, he calls us into a relationship with one another. We are to see ourselves as intricately entangled beings connected in a community of creation, not individual automatons simply pursuing our own private desires and fantasies.
This truth also implies that our identity stems from our very existence in God. Many scholars will tell you that Psalm 139 is about God’s presence in light of God’s participation in the making of every stage of our life cycles. If this is the case, then God intended for our identities to echo His own character and being. We are not our own, and our thoughts and actions must reflect God’s ownership of us.
Lastly, that God “fearfully” made us invokes a certain trust and belief on God’s part. God created each and every one of us because He trusts that we have something to offer to creation. God believes in us even when we falter and fail in our endeavors.
Stephen King once wrote that he rarely believes in himself despite his fame and that when his self-esteem wavers, he looks to his wife for support: “Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference,” King wrote, “They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.” God’s belief in us, when realized, can be an amazing source of hope.
As God’s creation, we are to “fear and tremble before God;” but, in light of this command, we can know that God has “fearfully” made us and expects us to live by that truth daily.