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  • Writer's pictureSt. Luke's

You Are Marvelously Made

Kirby Gleason

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the most beautiful landscape you have seen. Perhaps it was a sunset or sunrise, a waterfall, or the view of miles and miles of forest from atop a peak. Chances are that image is saved in your memory because of how awesome it was…the light was just right, the colors were brilliant, and the trees, or the water, or the mountain, or the sun or whatever it is were just perfect.

Two memories come to my mind. The first is when I saw Crater Lake for the first time about 10 years ago. I grew up here in Oregon, but had never been to the nation’s first national park. I asked my wife if she wouldn’t mind if we pulled over the very first chance we got, so we did…just a quarter-mile past the welcome center was a turn out, and I got out of the car and took a few steps up to see the most amazing sight. I stood in silence for several minutes when I realized my jaw had dropped. I was stunned by the magnificence.

More recently, Amanda and I were visiting my family in Southern California. They live in the high desert, east of Los Angeles, off I-10 on the way to Vegas. Honestly, there is not much to do in Victorville, as it is mostly strip malls and tumbleweeds. I looked at a map and decided to head toward Barstow, where at least they had an outlet mall. Then, I noticed something on the map, off the highway several miles in the middle of the desert, indicated as “Rainbow Basin”. We decided to check it out. As we followed the GPS, the roads became smaller, and soon we were on a gravel road. That road narrowed, and it soon became a dirt road, and eventually a very rocky trail. I had bought the full insurance package on the rental car, so we pressed on. We finally got to a patch of gravel that had a sign. We parked and walked up a little rise and I suddenly knew exactly why this place was called Rainbow Basin. A geologic masterpiece was before us and again my jaw dropped. We stood there in the 109-degree desert and held hands and wept. It seemed the only response possible…we were just so moved by what we were seeing.

Both those sights, (and countless others, after all, we are just a 20-minute drive from some of the world’s greatest vistas, the Columbia River Gorge) were awesome. Wondrous. Marvelous.

In today’s Psalm, the Psalmist uses these very words to describe not a physical aspect like those sights, but rather another wonderous, awesome, marvelous creation: themselves. It seems easy to offer God praise for the beautiful scenery we encounter, but may feel a little awkward to see ourselves in that same awe-filled, speechless, jaw-dropping way, but the Psalmist does just that: “I am marvelously made”

Psalm 139 is often attributed to David, like many Psalms, but some traditions attribute it to Adam, which I think offers a unique perspective. The first-created being, noticing the complexities and specialty they possessed, especially in contrast to other elements of creation. The self-actualization of this Psalm – “wow! I am really something! This is really cool! Thanks so much!”

Some translations of this Psalm use “Marvelously”, and others use awesomely and wondrously. I did extensive research (and by that, I mean I spent about 2 minutes on Google) and found the Hebrew word used here is pahla which can mean “to be separated, distinct”. My modern semantics make me think the phrase “I am marvelously made” could also be translated as “I am made to be unique—set apart” or, as some young people might say “I am one of one”. The psalmist is saying “you made me special”. Unique. In an infinite universe, on a planet with 7 billion others, how marvelous is that?

I have to wonder about this concept of “I am marvelously made” and its relation to the idea of Imago Dei, that is the belief that we are created in the image of God. I did more “extensive research” and frankly, I am overwhelmed with the amount of scholarship regarding the philosophy and application of this concept, and about the substantive, relational, and functional views of Imago Dei theology. I’ll summarize it thusly: It is marvelous. And awesome. And wonderous. This layman will just say that it is likely because of the Imago Dei that makes us marvelously made…it is the imago dei that enables us to be unique or set apart.

That is an amazing encouragement, right? Why do we hate ourselves and others, then?

Well, we are inundated with lies about ourselves. Others tell us lies and we tell ourselves lies, lies that describe in ways that are not marvelous. Some examples:

You are too big. You are not big enough.

You are too fat. You are too thin.

You’re not masculine enough. You’re not feminine enough.

You are too loud. You are too quiet.

You talk too much. You need to say more.

You are overly religious. You are not religious enough.

And on and on and on. In fact, as I was giving these examples, you probably are reminded of one of these lies, or a similar one. And, if you are like me, this lie probably lives rent-free in your head, constantly doing battle with our encouraging Psalm.

Perhaps most insidious are the lies we tell ourselves. We may start to believe the lies others have said, and then repeat them over and over. This is true in my case.

I’ve spent most of my life believing the insidious, horrible lie that “I am lazy”. This inaccurate view of myself absolutely affected how I lived my life and how I approached my day to day. It became easy to just identify as lazy and be ashamed. That shame would cause more anxiety, and a seemingly never-ending shame and anxiety cycle would start.

But it turns out I’m not lazy. I’m just anxious. And my anxiety was what was affecting my approach to life, not laziness. And guess what? I can do something about that! I can take medication and use the tools I have learned through therapy, reducing the anxiety and allowing me to passionately approach work and daily roadblocks with confidence. The lie I was believing prohibited me from being refreshed in the astonishing marvel that is me.

Some of you know about my super-cool part time job. For those of you who do not know, I’m going to tell you why I often am absent on Sundays in the Fall. I am the PA Announcer at Lumen Field for the Seattle Seahawks. I’m on the microphone in the stadium at home games. I announce the starting lineups, and I’m the guy, that when the Seahawks are on defense, says “THHHIIIRRRRRRRD DOWWWNNNN” that makes 65,000 people go nuts. It is a dream come true, and something I never thought I would be doing. I am privileged to have a job only 31 other people in the world have.

When I got the opportunity to audition for this role, I was very nervous, and my anxiety kicked in big time. Those of you who have made the drive to Seattle on I-5 know that moment of coming into town, as you pass Boeing Field on your left, the Seattle skyline, including the Space Needle, rises up on the horizon. When I saw that, and the suddenly very formidable Lumen Field in the foreground, I just about had a panic attack. I remember thinking (lying to myself) “there is no way am good enough to do this. I don’t have the knowledge, the experience, or the prestige to be able to pull this off” The morning of the audition was just as frantic inside my head and especially my stomach. I looked in the mirror and began to wonder who I could pretend to be, or if I should even go at all. Then, a divinely inspired moment: I heard a voice in my head – the first was my Grandpa’s voice, then my old basketball coach, then my sister, other coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends – a cacophonous chorus, in unison, saying a simple phrase: “JUST BE KIRBY”. Well, it turns out it was Kirby they were looking for.

Here’s the thing: What makes us marvelously made isn’t our success, or our accomplishments, or any positive adjectives or worldly measures. What makes us marvelously made is how the imago dei shows up in all of us *in spite of or because of* all the things that make you uniquely you.

Think of those examples of lies I listed earlier. It’s not necessarily the veracity of those descriptions that’s the lie. After all, I am too big for many things. I do not fit on most amusement park rides. I’m probably not getting in the back seat of your car. I am definitely not smart enough for many contexts: you do not want me operating on you, nor do you want me flying the plane you are on (I wouldn’t fit in the cockpit anyway…) These facts do not take away from my marvelousness, rather, they are precisely what makes me marvelously made. The lie is not believing those things to be true, but rather believing that those things are not good, that those descriptions of you are somehow not awesome, wondrous, or marvelous.

I can have confidence to JUST BE KIRBY because all of what makes me ‘me’, even my perceived flaws-- are the product of a marvelous, wonderous, awesome creation. The same is true of you. If you are tempted to respond to that by saying “yes, but…” please remind yourself that every part of you is wonderous. You make the world a marvelous place because of that. I sincerely hope that knowing that, you can be your authentic self. I also hope that the next time you look in the mirror, you will see a beautiful jaw-dropping panorama that leaves you speechless, because like those memorable vistas, you are awesomely and wondrously made. A marvel!

Just be you. You are marvelously made.

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