Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
– Psalm 139:16-18 (NRSV)
Somehow, before we were even born, we were both unformed and substance at the same time. In other words, we were both made and unmade, both spirit and flesh, both gas and solid.
I don’t know about you, but my life since then has not been any less contradictory.
Sometimes my feet stand solidly on the ground of faith and confidence, even as I float in the airy uncertainty of doubt and fear. Sometimes I look around with satisfaction at all my earthly riches, even as I wish the couch did not have an unsightly tear in the corner. Sometimes I find myself laughing at that one video of the corgi doing a belly flop off the end of a dock, even as images of children in cages break my heart.
When I notice these paradoxes, I can get paralyzed, believing that I must somehow experience only one thing or the other, only be one thing or another.
But we are made in the image of a God who also contains multitudes. At the beginning of this short passage, God has eyes to see and a book to write in. A few words later, God’s thoughts are described as infinite grains of sand. So is God a scribe bent studiously over a desk, or is God the most glorious, endless beach? Yes. God is these things, and so much more than you or I can imagine. And so you and I, created in the divine image, are much more than we can imagine, too.
God—thank you for creating us, just as we are. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.