Reflection – Psalm 139
“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.” What imagery!! Who thinks of this stuff or has the writing voice to capture the thought with such poeticism?! David does. As a shepherd, he had way too much alone-time on his hands, hanging out with sheep and talking with God. Psalm 139 is a relational psalm – a conversation with the creator who knows us intimately. The God who knows every word we’ll say before it’s on our tongue (v. 4) knits us together using threads of DNA. Going even deeper than that, He designs our very inmost being, our soul…what makes us “us”. As no two fingerprints are alike (even between identical twins), so no two souls are the same. There will never be another me or you.
While that knowledge is amazing, the idea that we are fearfully and wonderfully made falls short in this broken world. If God knits us, why does He seem to drop a stitch here or there? How do we reconcile David’s psalm with the realities of Down’s Syndrome, Autism, malformed hearts, or other birth defects?
I have no perfect answer for the tough questions that come when you face raising children born with challenges. But the people I know who face these challenges are known for their strong character and many abilities…not for any “dis”ability. It comes down to something God said about David, when He chose David as a gawky teenage shepherd to be anointed as future king: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
This painting was inspired by all of my students whom God knit wonderfully. The image is specifically inspired by a young lady I had the privilege of teaching for both 6th-grade and senior year of high school in Drawing 1. I’ve always admired her character, her beauty, her gentleness tempered with strength and stubborn determination. While issues with her hand have helped to develop her into the young woman she is now, they by no means define her or slow her down. God made her purposefully and had a plan for her life while He was still weaving her in the secret place.
This blog post is dedicated to so many students who have enriched my life over the past decade. I can think of a young lady with Down’s Syndrome who struggled to draw realistically, but she would sit and compose scenes of stick-figure characters – all part of a cheer or volleyball or gymnastics team and each doing some cool trick or flip. I think of a 6th-grade boy who spoke only through a computerized voice box, but he loved paper mache. He built and painted a zebra with yarn for tail and mane. That zebra was so cool I wanted to keep it for myself; and the boy was always smiling, always joyful. I think of multiple students with ADHD who warn me as they come into class, “Miss Bozarth, I didn’t take my meds this morning.” Yet, watching those kids draw is like watching a high-speed computer process information: hand and pencil whiz across the page, analyzing shapes, adjusting proportions with a beautifully active line-stroke. They finish in 30 minutes what it takes others 3 days to do; and they do it well. I think of a young man with Asperger’s who can’t make eye contact with me in the hallway and struggles in social situations. But he loves drawing; his enthusiasm is contagious; his humility is humbling; and I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t one day achieve his goal of becoming an animator. I am blessed to teach these kids.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians says it better than I can: “Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor. 1:26-27) In over a decade of teaching, there are countless students like the few I’ve highlighted here. They have encouraged, challenged, humbled, and entertained me. More than that, they’ve taught me the beauty of imperfection. They’ve made me a better teacher (a better person) along the way.
Note: I realize Paul’s verse in Corinthians may rub people the wrong way. We all feel weak, in the minority, maybe even despised at times, but we don’t like the feeling and hate it when others think of us that way. Hold on! Many of our favorite heroes fall into just that category! Look at movies and TV shows from the past decades: Wicked (2003 musical), Underdog (1960s cartoon), Despicable Me (2010 movie), Get Smart (1960s TV show), Charlie Brown (1950s comic strip). We love a hero we can relate to whose weaknesses often become their strengths. Isaiah wrote about the ultimate hero who would be “despised and rejected; a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:2-4). “God chose the weak things” should fill us with relief, reminding us that even our weaknesses can have a purpose and be used for great things.