Fearful and Wonderful by Stewart Perry

I have to admit when I heard that this year’s Australian of the year was Taryn Brumfitt, a body positivity advocate, I didn’t immediately think to myself ‘wow that makes perfect sense’ like I have done in previous years. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of her and it’s not that I don’t think the issues she champions aren’t important… it was just that I had to stop and digest for a moment… After all she’s not a high profile identity and she’s not a scientist or medical professional that has come up with a radical thought or breakthrough…

In fact what she says is not new at all… As I stopped and digested, a bible verse came to mind:

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. (Psalm 139:13-14)

Taryn is reminding our culture what the psalmist knew and what we see throughout scripture – we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”… the problem is that we tend to focus on the ‘fearfully’ part of it and not how “fearful” is meant to be understood in this verse as awe and amazement.

Living on the Gold Coast we are only too aware of the Cosmetic Surgery ‘industry’ that exists here, which is really just a by-product of being told over and over again that we are not fearfully and wonderfully made, we are not perfect and there is something wrong with us that needs fixing.

I have to admit that I fall into believing that lie from time to time because there’s plenty that is wrong with me… Leanne will sometimes look at me and asks if I’m ok if I’m looking uncomfortable and my reply is usually “I’m old”… I have a neck and back that stiffens up and sometimes seizes up and so that’s usually the cause of my discomfort… but add to that, I have a heel condition called ‘Haglund’s Deformity’ (look that up if you’re interested), arthritis in my hands, I’ve had asthma since I was a child and also Eosinophilic Esophagitis (you’ll probably need to look that one up as well), and I am getting older… and that’s just a few things that are wrong with me… don’t get me started on all my personality flaws… there seems to be a lot more that’s fearful than there is that is wonderful about me.

If we immerse our faults and failings, insecurities and anxieties into a culture that is saturated with influencers and marketing executives pushing products or services luring us in with the promise of being able to be “our best selves” then it’s no wonder that we need people like Taryn Brumfitt in our country to push back against this culture with messages like: you are enough and you are loved just as you are.

It’s not that we shouldn’t get attention for what ails us or try and improve ourselves or live healthier lifestyles, but there’s a real problem when our identity is formed by what we are not rather than what we are.

I do hope the Christian Church can come alongside people like Taryn with our message of hope… yet I often lament that the first thing that we often default to is looking towards our own, or particularly looking towards the sinfulness of others. Again, it’s not that it’s not important to address our sinfulness or brokenness or lack of God in our lives… it absolutely is… but this is not where we find our identity – our identity is not what we are not – our identity is what we are, and what we are is deeply loved by God, even before we confess our sins, even if we never address the things that are wrong about us, it will never change how deeply loved we are by God.

But let’s face it, we’ve been conditioned to look for the negatives haven’t we… and that’s partly the church’s fault… and so its the church’s responsibility to get the messaging right as we go forward. I am, you are, fearfully and wonderfully made. Life will give us trials and things will happen to us physically, emotionally and mentally that will often be hard to deal with… God is not a cosmic puppeteer manipulating us so that we will notice God in our testings… God is love and God is never away from us, journeying with us in our trials, incompleteness, sins and yes even old age… reminding us that “I am with you until the end of the age” reminding us that our identity is found in God through Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I thank God for Taryn Brumfitt and I thank God that the church has another opportunity to join the chorus and change the narrative of our culture. I thank God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and pray that I might complain less about what’s wrong with me and celebrate more that my identity is found in Jesus Christ. Our best self isn’t getting everything that’s wrong with us fixed, it’s finding our identity in the One who has never stopped loving us.

Have a fearful and wonderful week