If I were to begin, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me..." and stop this psalm quote, many Christians could finish that opening line ("You know when I sit and when I rise..."). Some of us might even be able to quote all 24 verses of Psalm 139. Many consider Psalm 139 to be the "crown of psalms." It's a beautiful proclamation of an all-knowing, all powerful, and all present God. We see not only that he is those things but that he is intimately involved in our lives. He created us, knows our every step, and knows when our last breath will be taken. And I'm drawn to verse 14: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
I have always struggled with body image. As a kid I was active in sports and other activities, but I was the bigger kid in the group. And while nobody made fun of me for my weight, I was always aware of my size. I remember in High School getting ready for a soccer match and having to change in front of my best friend, and he asked why I had marks on my stomach. He asked if I got hit with a ball that left the marks that he saw. My response? Yes. I wasn't about to explain stretch marks to him.
There wasn't any harm or malice in his question, but those stretch marks were embarrassing. And while my body size didn't seem to affect relationships, my body image in my mind did. In High School, I thought a girl wouldn't like me because I didn't look like a Hollywood heartthrob. When I went to college, those thoughts continued my self-doubt. I still had relationships with friends and dated girls, but my weight and my looks still weighed heavy (pun intended) on my mind. Even though I had good relationships, I kept telling myself that my weight mattered. Those fears were never confirmed by others but they remained present in my mind. Anxiety impacts self-esteem and can cause us to isolate in fear from others.
Am I alone? I think not. Our ever-present media only shows the most beautiful people. Our culture esteems physical appearance and pursues it as an idol. We're told to turn back the clock, keep ourselves trim, erase all wrinkles or blemishes, and try to be prefect. Unless you're movie-star gorgeous, you're below average.
We all recognize ways that we fall short of our culture's values. Maybe you think that your nose is too big, too wide, or too small. Maybe you think your ears are too big or stick out farther than you think they should. The reality is that many of us have an idea, or understanding, of what we should look like. It’s hard for us to fathom why God would create us to look like we do and be so different than everybody else. And society says that we should look like this person, walk and talk like that person, and BE that person over there. But what does God say?
In Psalm 139, verse 14 David beautifully acknowledges that God created him. David admits that all that God creates is wonderful and good and that he knows it. God, the creator of the heavens and the earth and all beautiful things...he created me too. For those, like me, who struggle with how they look, we can recognize God's weaving of our bodies into this world. We can proclaim that we are beautiful in who we are and how we look. Many of us, like me, struggle with this idea that God would create "this" and call it "good" but he did. It's easy to declare and yet tough to swallow.
As I read this psalm it's clear to me that David struggles too. David declares in verse 5 that, "You hem me in behind and before..." What an interesting choice of word and imagery--but it makes sense. To "hem" something means that you sew it to restrict movement. So David is declaring to God that while he knows that he struggles he also knows that God hemmed him in so that he doesn't break away from him. His being "hemmed" in means that he cannot fight what God knows and sees in him. And in this psalm David does come around to the peace of God's creation of him. He still struggles but his declaration in verse 17 is that God's thoughts are higher than his and his ways are more beautiful and wonderful. God, what you created is marvelous in YOUR eyes. This is a wonderful reminder of where we need to be in our own view of self--but it is still a struggle.
We need to be "OK" with how God created us. I'm not going to say that we shouldn't try to be healthier or better but we need to love who God created. We need to love ourselves. We need to see the beauty in us as God does. My size will be a struggle for me for my whole life, but the daily reminder of God's creation of me is stronger than my personal struggles. David declares in verse 17 "how precious to me are your thoughts, God!" Yes, how precious are your thoughts of ME. Your beautiful hands created, your image was placed within me, and you called me your own. I too am wonderfully made.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson