Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“I stood confronted, again, with the revelation that good came before bad, that blessing came before curse, that love has always preceded sin.”

Heritage_Kelley1

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.
— Psalm 139: 13, 14

I scribbled the word “abortion” with my teenage cursive in my Study Bible. My youth pastor told us that Psalm 139 proved that God made us, knew us and determined that we each should live. Proof positive that abortion is a sin, he declared. And so I marked the margin of my Bible, determining to never forget where God stood on this issue.

Maybe because as an adopted child I grew up with the acute awareness that I was a candidate for abortion, it mattered a great deal to know God intended me to live before anyone considered an outcome to the contrary. But in all these years thumbing past this passage, I missed the poetry of the Psalm; I saw the issue and lost sight of the larger message looming over the text.

Jonathan Martin paraphrases the verse like this: “You are loved because you exist.” Reading that in Prototype stopped me in my tracks. Nothing in the margin but love. No issue but wild acceptance. So I returned to my Bible and read Psalm 139 from top to bottom as if for the first time. And I cried.

Before I was known to anyone, God knew me as someone lovely, someone worth knowing. While I remained a secret hidden in my birth mom’s belly, God’s fingerprints already covered each inch of me. My inner intricacies had yet to see the light of day, but I imagined God’s fingers furiously stitching me together, one vibrant thread at a time. I felt a burst of joy in my own belly–and wondered if He felt the same some forty years ago when I was only His handiwork.

My mere existence meant I was loved. Before anything happened to me or I did something (or failed to do something) there was me, and there was Love. I heard the echo of John, reminding us how God loved us first. Once again, love preceding any action on my part, a love that arrived at my doorstep before salvation or baptism or repentance.

There might as well have been a dinner bell ringing, a resounding clanging song reaching across the expanse of the ranch calling me home to a table overflowing with love. How often do I miss the family truth: it’s love, from creation to culmination. This God who is Love cannot move in ways that are anything other than love-laden. It is who He is–and therefore, who I am when I am most human.

Before too long, I moved from the wash of love in Psalm 139 to the cool of the Genesis garden. I remembered something Desmond Tutu wrote, about how we are created for goodness, and in Eden it’s goodness that’s normative and wrongness moves against the grain. I stood confronted, again, with the revelation that good came before bad, that blessing came before curse, that love has always preceded sin. The reminder felt fundamental, like God setting me straight on our family way.

I find it’s easy to believe in original sin, to believe “the fall” came first and that while creation was made good, we were not. But the truth remains, we were made for goodness and we are loved from inception. These are the first things.

So I ponder my heritage. As an adopted adult I recognize the blind spots in my family tree, names and faces unknown to me. I don’t worry about the biological mysteries. My deeper inheritance comes from God’s own hand, how He wove me into being and embroidered me with divine delight, how He scribbled me into life before I even entered the birth canal.

I’m coming to see that the first thing my living presence provoked was God’s perfect love. And the first force I encountered in life: God’s perfect love. And the family heirloom I most want to pass on to my children: the truth of God’s love for them from the very beginning. This is our heritage.

Sometimes I need to approach the gospel afresh, reading beyond my own good notes in the margins. In a few of those moments I’m allowed to see past issues and proof texts to the poetry and the intimate stories that are my family history.

I can hear my Parent speaking, calling me home to the Table.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley is co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. She is also the author of Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World (Eerdmans).
Kelley Nikondeha
Kelley Nikondeha

Latest posts by Kelley Nikondeha (see all)

Kelley Nikondeha