Language in this Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah gives us a remarkable image of God forming Isaiah to be God’s servant even before Isaiah was born: “The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb.” This echoes similar language used by the poet who composed Psalm 139, who uses the comely and homey image of God knitting him together in his mother’s womb: “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.”
We are very accustomed to hearing God referred to as King, Lord, and Father, which perhaps is why this language of God forming people in the womb is so striking. While certainly there are men who knit, throughout history knitting has been the purview of women. And even more certainly, the task of gestating the next generation always has been the work of the females of the species. So as we think about God forming and knitting us together, we have a much more feminine and perhaps gentler image of God than is normally present to us in the tradition.
Even more shocking, this image tells us that God is concerned with forming us to be servants even before we are born. Before we take our first breath, God knits us together in a particular way that makes each one of us the unique child of God that we are. Now this thought may lead us to want to curse God for putting us together in this particular way, a way that has brought with it trouble and pain that maybe could have been avoided had we been someone else. But Psalm 139 especially encourages us to consider that we are wonderfully made, because it was God who made us. In a culture that holds up a very narrow image of the beauty ideal, it may be hard to accept that our bodies, with their wrinkles and warts and bumps and sheer vulnerability, were wonderfully made by God. In a culture that tells narrow stories about success, it may be hard to accept that our personalities and our skills, with our foibles and our shortcomings, were wonderfully made by God.
As a way to embody the knowledge that you were made wonderfully by God, I invite you to go through the following meditation based on Psalm 139. It is meant to be read slowly, taking time to really feel the different parts of our bodies and to truly connect to our whole selves.
Close your eyes and relax. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Take another deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling the breath leave your body, carrying tension away. Concentrate on your breathing, breath going in and out.
As you breathe, bring your attention to your head and face. As you breathe out, let go of any tension you feel there.
As you breather, pay attention to your neck and shoulders—let them relax.
Feel your breath flow down your arms, through elbows into hands and out your fingers. Relax.
Concentrate on your back and chest and stomach. Let go of any tension you are holding here.
Feel the relaxation spread into your legs, through your knees, down your shins, into your feet, and out your toes.
Now say read out loud, “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.”
Start with your toes and your feet. God knit these together in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making your toes and your feet and loving your toes and your feet. God knew these were the feet that would ground your life, that would allow you to stand firm in the Lord.
Feel your legs. God knit these legs together in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making these very legs and loving these legs. God knew that these were the legs that would move you through life, that would allow you to continually journey toward God.
Bring your attention to your chest and stomach and back. God knit this chest and stomach and back together in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making your chest, and stomach, and back, and loving your chest, and stomach, and back. God knew that this trunk would allow you to twist and bend with the winds of change, the winds of life.
Feel your arms and hands and fingers. God knit these arms and hands and fingers together in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making your arms and hands and fingers and loving them. God knew that with these arms you would embrace the world and all of God’s children.
Bring your attention to your neck and face and head. God knit your neck and face and head in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making your neck and face and head and loving them. God knew that this would be the face that you present to the world.
And God did not just knit your body together in your mother’s womb. God also made you, your spirit, your very inner self. God knit this self together in your mother’s womb. Imagine God making this self and loving this self. Imagine God telling you about all God put together to make your very self. What personality did God give you? What weaknesses and strengths did God pick out to make you you? Spend a minute dwelling in this knowledge that God knit your inner self together in your mother’s womb.
Holding onto this knowledge that God knit your body, yourself, allow it to radiate from you while you imagine a day in your life. Does knowing that God made you wonderfully you change how you feel about yourself? How you go about your day? How you treat other people?