“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Fearfully and wonderfully made.
Made. Created. Fearfully and wonderfully.
As I stare down at my beautiful, precious, tiny, niece, the words of the Psalmist reverberate in my head. Fearfully and wonderfully. Fearfully and wonderfully? It turns to a question, one that I’m scared to ask. I push it aside but it resurfaces again.
I can’t ask this question.
I won’t ask this question.
I kiss her sweet face and hand her back to her mom, my sister. I take a deep breath and walk out of the Florida hospital room, knowing very well I will never see that face again this side of heaven.
I sit on the airplane back to North Carolina, alone. Silent tears slip quickly down my face. I don’t try to stop them. It wouldn’t work, anyway. A man sits on my right, a woman on my left. We don’t speak and I can’t help but wonder as the tears keep streaming, what they think of me. I arrive. I wait. I wait as the hours tick by and turn into days. I wait for the call I know is coming. I wait and I don’t ask questions.
My beautiful niece, Elizabeth Irene died four days later on January 21, 2016 at her home in the care of her loving parents, and big brother and sister. She was deeply loved, deeply wanted, deeply cared for. But we knew that no matter how much we loved, wanted, and cared for her, it was no use. In October of 2015, my niece was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a rare condition known as Edwards syndrome. Instead of the normal pair of number 18 chromosome, an extra one develops that causes life-threatening developments such as deformed organs. It also disrupts the forming of limbs, and most noticeably in the case of Elizabeth, her arms. A significant number of diagnosed Trisomy 18 pregnancies do not make it to term. We were blessed to meet Elizabeth and have her here for six days. Six days we wouldn’t trade for the world. She lived a simple life full of love and we have confidence she is with Jesus and we will see her again. We miss her greatly but our hope is greater.
It wasn’t until after her memorial service, after the days began to settle back into the new normal, that my questions came back.
Fearfully and wonderfully.
There they were again. Those dreaded words. The same words that used to bring me comfort and encouragement now filled me with guilt and confusion. I’ve known these words my whole life. I’ve drilled them into others and myself. They’ve been my go-to words when feeling worthless and down. But they’ve also always kind of made sense. Sure, some of us were bigger, smaller, taller, stronger, more tan, less awkward, black, white, long nose, thick hair, but there has always been an even ground for what fearfully and wonderfully looked like:
There was no question that while each of us may have had some minor differences, it was evident that each was still obviously fearfully and wonderfully made in our own unique way. But not too unique.
I took those same words and tried to apply them to this situation and it just didn’t seem to fit. Confusion. Guilt. How could I think such a thing? What did this mean? Surely not that I didn’t love her? No. That was never the question. She was loved and adored by her whole family, myself included.
The problem wasn’t if I loved her or not, if I thought she was sweet, precious, beautiful. She was all of those things. The problem was I was looking at her and then looking at God’s word and seeing what seemed liked a contradiction. Fearfully and wonderfully MADE. Surely, surely this is not what God meant when He said WONDERFULLY. What is wonderful about a deformed arm and organs?
And then, one day, I realized my problem. I was looking at life and trying to force it to make sense in light of Scripture. Contradictions. BUT as a believer in Christ, my circumstances should not interpret Scripture but rather Scripture should interpret my circumstances. Clarity!
The Bible tells me we WILL have trouble in this world. The Bible tells me that since the fall of man in Genesis, things are broken, distorted, and wrong. The Bible tells me that sickness and disease are part of that brokenness, part of man’s consequences in his disobedience to his Maker.
But it also tells me of His love. It tells me of our worth because of His love. My worth is in the fact that He made me, both body and soul. We all have bodies that reflect the brokenness of this world. But He loves us the same. His Word tells me that He will make ALL things right. The Bible says YES, I will have trouble but it also tells me to take heart! Jesus has overcome the world. He saw our brokenness, inside and out and did something about it. He has made a way for man to be with God, to be back in His intended order. Revelation 21 shares the promise that Christ will make all things new! “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people (Revelation 21:3).” When we dwell with God, all will be right; that is when it will make sense. Not when living in a broken, fallen world.
Our worth is not in our skin and bones but in Christ’s great love for us.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul know it very well (Psalm 139:14).”
These words are true for me.
These words are true for you.
These words are true for Elizabeth. And I know that very well.