Friday, May 22, 2015

"My Soul Knows This Full Well?"

The following is the transcript for a baby shower devotion that I gave last month. I've been thinking since then of the line in Psalm 139, "Wonderful are your works, my soul knows this full well." I don't think my soul knows this nearly as well as it needs to, and so this sustained meditation on Psalm 139 is an effort to know it at least a little better. 


Let’s begin with a pop quiz from the children’s catechism:

  • Who made you? God
  • What else did God make? God made all things
  • Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory
  • How can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands
  • Why are you to glorify God? Because he made me and he takes care of me 
Because he made me and he takes care of me.

I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating God as Creator in these last few months, leading up to Elese’s birth and now in the first three months of her life, and this has made me think: what better time to worship God as Creator –maker and sustainer – than at a baby shower! We are gathered today to celebrate the life of little baby H, whom God has known and named and numbered the hairs on his head and words in his mouth from before there was time.

In thinking about God making a baby, I am reminded of that famous GK Chesterton quote about the sun.

He says:

Now…  it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising ... It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.”

And so today, we pause and worship God as creator of this little baby and of every little baby. In the last few months, I've had the pleasure of watching my own little baby develop and grow.  When I nurse her, I marvel at her little bitty fingers, those little bitty fingernails, they're perfectly formed. And if we buy into the Chesterton quote, we have to marvel that God is saying, “Do it again!,” individually crafting each of those fingers and each of those fingernails. Right now, in your belly, God is making perfect little ears, and perfect little toes, and just the right amount of hair, and teeth that we won't even see for months that but that are already there.

What an amazing Creator God we have! That with approximately 353,000 babies born around the world each day, and with each one, God is saying, "Let there be eyelids!

And when labor begins, which is something the doctors have never been able to figure out exactly what starts labor naturally, but God is calling that baby out in that moment, individually.

And when he comes out, we will continue to see Gods attention to detail in creation: the way a little baby knows to nurse as soon as he or she is born, in the way that a baby kicks her legs and does that little panting thing on mom’s lap when she knows she’s about to eat. When she puts her hands in fists and stretches them over her head (but barely, since her head is so proportionately big) when I undo her swaddle. How God designed babies to hit certain, predictable developmental milestones. How a parent is programmed to do certain (sometimes ridiculous) things in order to elicit a response from the baby – did you know that being a mom actually, literally rewires parts of your brain.

When your baby smiles his first smiles or laughs his first delightful laugh, it is God who created that moment, who created your baby's mind to be engaged with that particular thing - in our case, it was Titus jumping on a trampoline that made Elese erupt into peels of belly laughs. And God doesn't just automatically make babies obsessed with ceiling fans, he individually gives that obsession to every baby I know.

It’s not even that God sort of made this kid and then looked around at all the families in the world and said, “Hmm, I think this man and this woman would be the best parents for him.” It’s more like a custom home that he made from scratch and each of your parent personalities and each of your kids was specially crafted to comprise the family that you will be – your kids’ interactions with each other, your interactions with your kids individually and collectively. Those were all purposefully designed and foreordained. There’s nothing haphazard about how God made us, but it was done carefully, and I mean “carefully” both in the sense that he paid great attention to detail and in the sense that it was done with great care – with kindness and affection and joy in us as his children and in families that he is designing to nurture and care for and raise up these little people with the eventual goal of them knowing that love in a personal and profound and life-giving way.

We live in what some people have termed a "culture of death," one that seems to embrace death when life is uncomfortable or inconvenient to us. There are so many facets to this so-called "culture war," but at least one facet has to be deepening our conviction of and worship of God as our Creator. This is the root belief from which all the rest of our life flows, and wherever there's belief, there's worship of what we think is most ultimate, most life-giving.

As the heart of my devotion, I want to read aloud Psalm 139, which is that classic passage about God as creator of babies in their mothers’ wombs. Psalm 139 has become dear to me in these last few months as I anticipated and then celebrated the birth of my own little baby.

As I read to this worshipful language, I would love for you all to picture in your mind the God of all creation, creating this tiny baby. 

Psalm 139:1-18

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

My baby can't even speak, and yet God knows every word she will ever say.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall 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 dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

When baby Elese is baptized on Sunday, that will be a tangible way that God says this very thing to her. Because she will grow up knowing that God is the God who made her who takes care of her, even so far as dying to rescue her from her since, she will know that there's nowhere she can go that will escape from God. And rather than this being a scary thing that she can run but she can't hide, this is a comforting thing God our Maker is also our Redeemer.

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

Even if my little baby get sick or even if God allows something to happen to her and she dies before I do or she suffers in ways that would break my heart, I know that this darkness does not take her out of God's incredible care, because he made her, and he takes care of her.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

God is making the skin cells that will hold your baby together even as we speak. He's creating each tooth that will come through as a baby and then us an adult, and he will individually call them forth in what we call “teething.” He's creating each hair, and he knows when my little baby will go from being a little baldy to having a head full of hair.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
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 saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Before he’s even born, God knows what day he will be born, he knows what day he will die.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

As many scientific advancements as mankind will ever make, we will never fully understand the mystery of life, and that is simply because God is God.

This God is the one who made us and who takes care of us, and he will take care of us for all eternity.

In all of this, my desire has been to recognize that we worship God as Creator not just by acknowledging him in passing, but by meditating on his perfections as Creator in all of these details, with every person who has ever existed, especially those who are closest to us and in our care.

It's our duty as Christians, and it's our delight as mothers.
I would like close with verses from another psalm, Psalm 95:6-7
“Oh come let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand.”

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