This morning's PAYG was entirely focussed on Psalm 139... a contemporary sung version and then all but the final couple of verses read aloud (we never quite bring ourselves to include those unpleasant verses, do we?). Like lots of other people, I really like Psalm 139, delighting in the sense of God's eternal 'with-us-ness', even if I am less sure about the sense of predestination it also carries.
Today the bit that struck me were the verses about God knowing our unformed bodies and being present when we were knit together in our mothers' wombs. Again, usually this is a very comforting thought, but today I found myself thinking more carefully about this. How, for example, does this square with the reality that some people are born with gene mutations that will potentially or actually impact ther lives? More personally (which was actually where my thoughts began) did God already know that I had cells that could or would mutate into cancer cells? And if so, what, if anything does that mean?
Last night I was watching one of my favourite bits of trash television - New Tricks - in which one of the new characters is a young woman with cerebral palsy, played by upcomging actor Storme Toolis. It is good to see talented people proving that their lives are not pre-determined by accidents of birth, and good that societally we waking up to that, albeit alongside trying to develop tests prevent and techniques to prevent the birth of 'imperfect' babies (eugenics is alive and well and wearing a very respectable mask these days).
So what does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made? I don't think it refers to physical perfection or intellectual capacity, to creative potential or any other humanly defined category of worth. Just to be born, alive and with the potential to live is miracle itself.
Does God already know the day I will draw my last earthly breath? I have no idea. But I think that fixation on that kind of thing is an exercise in missing the point... if God is before us, with us, beyond us, then dates and times and places - and health and strength and who knows what - find their proper perspective, because ultimately there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone but me. I have friends across the UK, in churches and out of them, for whom life is tough, bewildering, overwhelming, in all sorts of different ways. Twee little explanations can't cut it - but the belief that God is present as much in the ***** as in the good stuff enables me to hope that in the end (which is beyond anything we yet know) it'll be OK.
You were there, God
As the sperm fertilised the ova
And the cells began to divide
And the embryo took shape
And grew in the hiddeness of a mother's womb
You are here, God
As day turns to day
As events and environment
Shape the people we become
And the hidden growth of hearts, minds, souls
You will be there, God
When lungs stop expanding with air,
Hearts stop circulating the blood
Life on earth ceases to be
And we are hiddden in your eternal embrace
So in the meantime
Help us trust in your promises
And live your love for ourselves
And for others