November 5, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Psalm 139:13-14 (NRSV)
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
According to Psalm 139, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our minds and bodies are intricate and beautiful. This is true even though sin has warped the goodness of God‘s creation. When we reflect on the wonder of our creation, we don’t glorify ourselves. Rather, we glorify and adore the God who created us.
This devotion is part of the series: A Biblical Guide to Reflection
I expect the title of this devotion – Reflecting on the Wonder of You – will elicit different responses from different readers of Life for Leaders. You may be intrigued, even encouraged by this title. You’d like to learn more about how wonderful you are. But I imagine that you may be put off by a title that sounds suspiciously like something you’d find on a schmaltzy poster in a mall gift store. You may wonder if I’ve fallen off the cliff of biblical theology into the valley of trendy sentimentality.
I can indeed get pretty sentimental sometimes. But I can assure you that today’s title has not been inspired by some saccharine slogan of positive thinking. No, in fact, my inspiration comes from the Bible, from Psalm 139, actually. There, the psalm writer is reflecting on many things, including the intricate beauty of his own being. We get the sense of this from the striking statement, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:14). The Message puts it this way, “Body and soul, I am marvelously made.”
If you stop to think about it, perhaps one of the most wonderful of all human characteristics is the ability to reflect deeply. Our brains are unbelievably complex and powerful. Yet, we can easily take for granted all that our brains can do, including contemplating our own brains. The fact that we can engage in self-reflection bears witness to the wonder of our createdness.
Of course, in Psalm 139 the writer is reflecting on the wonder of his own nature, not your nature or mine. But this psalm isn’t in Scripture just to show us how amazing the psalm writer was. Rather, this poem of worship is meant to inspire our own reflection on the complexity and elegance of . . . yes, ourselves.
But this isn’t the whole biblical story. We’ll get to the less beautiful parts of us in a few days. Psalm 139 doesn’t deny the reality of sin and the brokenness it produces in ourselves and the world. But bodies, minds, and souls that have been warped by sin still reflect the wonder of God’s creation. Psalm 139 invites us to reflect on this reflection, to marvel over who we are because God made us.
This psalm does not invite us to replicate the story of Narcissus found in Greek mythology. He was regarded by all as an exceptionally beautiful person. One day while bending down to drink from a pool of water, Narcissus saw his own reflection. Not realizing what he was actually seeing, Narcissus fell in love with his own mirror image. His obsessive self-love trapped Narcissus, who ultimately died because of his inability to have a relationship with his own reflection. That’s not the kind of self-reflection we find in Psalm 139.
This psalm does, however, invite us into adoring worship, not of ourselves, but of God. The psalm writer doesn’t say, “I am wonderful,” but “I am wonderfully made.” His reflection on his own intricate beauty points, not to himself, but to his Maker. Thus, immediately after saying “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” the psalmist says to the Lord, “Wonderful are your works; that I know very well” (139:14). God receives the glory for the magnificence of the psalm writer’s being, which he celebrates through God-inspired self-reflection.
How do you respond to the idea that you are fearfully and wonderfully made?
What helps you to marvel over the intricacy and beauty of the human body?
What kind of reflection helps you to adore God more deeply?
Set aside some time for quiet reflection, so that you might attend to the wonder of your own createdness. Talk to God about what you think and how you feel about yourself.
Gracious God, with the psalm writer we rejoice because we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for the wonder of our bodies and minds. Thank you for all the things we take for granted about ourselves. Thank you in particular for the ability to reflect on ourselves, the world, and you.
Help me, I pray, to reflect wisely on who I am. May the things that are wonderful about me lead me not to self-glorification, but to worshiping you.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, mighty and gracious God, our Creator! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Search Me, O God.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.