Hello Bethel Peeps, Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I’m so glad you came by to see me.
Psalm 138: 14 says
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Can’t say that I’m feelin’ it today – the ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ part anyway. You see, last week in a fit of needing to clean and organize my house I moved a pile of furniture in my house and sent stuff to the curb for the ‘Community Treasure Hunt’. With all that’s going on with Covid and the need to shelter at home, I have felt compelled to clean and tidy my space. It’s pretty transparent, eh. I don’t have any control or choice over the course of the pandemic, so I exercise control where I can get it; and this mostly seems to be around keeping my house tidy and uncluttered.
I lead a pretty cluttered life. Our house is small and still holds a lot of ‘stuff’ leftover from when the kids were much younger. So, the decluttering has been pretty intense, and has resulted in me putting my back out. Back pain is pretty consuming and not much will ease the spasm except time and patience; two things that I’m in pretty short supply of.
I’m particularly short on patience; especially patience for myself. I keep expecting that if I want to get something done then I should be able to get it done. I’m always taken by surprise when I can’t manage something physically; its as if all of those messages around determination and intention that I grew up with take over and I ignore the stark reality in front of me; that I can’t manage everything that I set out to do.
You see, on top of being middle-aged, I have a chronic connective tissue disorder that means that I have to manage pain pretty much all of the time, and that I struggle with balance and coordination. I wasn’t diagnosed with this disorder, (or disease or syndrome) until later in life. (For those of you who are interest, it’s a fault in the way I form collagen, and is called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder and I share the diagnosis with at least my sister and one of my children; likely with other members of my family as well) Which means that I grew up thinking and hearing that I was responsible for my clumsiness and weakness; that it was simply because I wasn’t trying hard enough. I also heard that I was being overly dramatic or “wanting attention” when I complained about pain or fatigue as a child; and that somehow I was not deserving of attention or care.
So, it was a bit of a relief as an adult to find out that I actually did have something wrong with me. For a little while anyway. And then all I felt was
Ashamed that I had pain or disability.
Ashamed when I had to ask for help.
Ashamed that I need accommodation.
Ashamed that I have a body that is aging.
I hear very similar feelings from a lot of you as well. That somehow other people were made ‘fearfully and wonderfully well’, but those of us who are older, who can’t move as easily, or who have disabilities were skipped over by God. We are ashamed enough of our bodies that we don’t access that supports that we all need. In my case its things like braces for my joints. Eventually it will also mean canes and a walker. I have both braces and canes, but often only wear them at home. Yesterday, when I complained to my BFF that my back was in spasms she gently scolded me that I didn’t call her earlier. Her thinking was that if I had given her more time then she could have helped me get to church and give me support to do the worship streaming. To be honest, it never even occurred to me to call her, even though I needed help to get things done. So, not only do I not access the braces and canes that I need, but I don’t access the people who love me to help me. That’s how deep the messages of shame have been embedded in me.
So, what would happen today if we actually believed that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made”, exactly as we are right now; with bodies and minds that weren’t perfect and in need of support and care. What if we actually believed that we are truly “made in the image of God” with our braces, our hearing aids and our glasses? What if we truly believe that we are wholly (or holy) made and appear before God as perfect?
Well – that would mean that wholeness (and holiness, maybe) is much more that physicality and that wonder is not tied to whether or not we appear like our bodies are perfect. It would mean that our wholeness (and holiness, maybe) means that we sometimes are dependent, sometimes needy, and sometimes require care. It also means that our wholeness (and holiness, maybe) has much more to do with our interdependence with each other rather than our independence from each other. It would mean that our deeply embedded shame and difficultly accessing care would simply melt away; its part of who we are in God’s world.
So today, join me in embracing God’s wonderful creation in you – in me – in all of us; with our creaky painful parts and our parts that don’t work the way that we expect them to, along with all of the parts that do work exactly like we want. Join me in the praise of God who has created and is creating us and regards us with overwhelming love and grace. Join me in believing that we are wholly (and holy) made in God’s image. Because God’s works are wonderful, and we know that full well.
Blessings today, dear friends, and remember you are Loved,