You are “fearfully” made!

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.

God’s Gift of Reading Opens Wondrous Worlds

One of my favorite places in this world is my home library.  Not only is it cozy, warm, and inviting, it also houses my main earthly treasure, books.  I admit it: I am a bibliophile.  I love books, and I can’t seem to get enough of them.  No wonder I am a Christian; we are called the “People of the Book,” after all.

Fellow book addict Edward Newton once wrote: “A man (or woman) is the most interesting thing in the world; and next is a book.”  Who was it that said that a book is a man’s best friend?  When I am in my library, I surround myself with hundreds of friends that provide different perspectives of God and of creation.  In the ancient art of reading I meet a very ancient God indeed.

I think that God has granted us the gift of reading in order to better explore who we are and to make something of ourselves.  It is a travesty that fewer people read books these days, for it is in reading that we can find ourselves—and many times loss ourselves—in the worlds that books create.

There is no better time for reading books than now.  Laptops and e-readers have made the sport versatile and mobile, giving us instant access to thousands of texts at the palm of our hand.

It’s an even better time to read as a family and to read to our children.  Our President’s Administration encourages it; our schools emphasize it; our bookstores nurture it.  Even Nancy Guinn is becoming new and improved.

Oh! and the joy to see a child read!  My five-year old daughter is reading up a Dr. Seuss storm, and it’s an absolute thrill to watch her sound out words.  This week she worked through the word, “incredibly.”  Every victory makes her want to read more, and her voracious habit has turned my car and my wife’s car into extensions of her own growing library!

When I read with my daughter or partake of the sacraments offered in my library, I quickly realize that by reading we can also find the very fingerprints of God.  In an Atticus Finch, we find God’s fingerprints of courage in the face of prejudice and status quo.  In a Frank McCourt, we find humor despite humiliation.  In a Winston Churchill we find an enlightened future rooted in a distant past.  In a Strunk and White we glimpse the wisdom of the English language.

Books are a powerful medium in which authors gain the voice to say something profound and grope for a mysterious God.  Words help us to discern and see God at work around us. Books capture moments in time and show us a mirror of who we are, from the darkest of souls to the grandest of visions.  They also reveal just how close or how far we have ventured from God.

Perhaps I like books and can see God within many pages of my library because I love writing too.  Writing and reading go hand-in-hand and establish a dance between knower and known.  A late professor of mine, Dr. Daniel Goodman, once said in a sermon: “We write because we want to find God.  Every sentence in its own way is a search for God.  Every period at the end of a sentence is another admission of failure, another frustration.  So what do we do?  We start another sentence, always searching, always seeking; but God, ever the ironist, always seems to reside and live in the next sentence.”

Same can be said about books.  God is in the next page, the next purchase, the next library loan!

Edward Newton cited a rather fitting poem for us booklovers:  “Thou fool!  To seek companions in a crowd/ Into thy room, and there upon thy knees/ before thy bookshelves, humbly thank thy God/ that thou hast friends like these!”