Tag Archives: worth

God Is So Big: A Look at Psalm 139

God Is So Big: A Look at Psalm 139

When I was a little girl, I loved to sing and dance. There are videotapes of me from around 1989-1990 in which I sing and dance to my favorite songs. I am teased, lovingly, by my family for these videos. You know – the cute little version of yourself that you can’t live down? So there’s this one particular video that has been quoted to me ad nauseum in which I go on a spree of theological depth, especially for a 3-year-old. I say something like, “God is so big. He’s so big, that you can’t even see him when you’re reading the bible!” Except that I’m a southern 3-year-old, so it actually sounds something like, “Gawd is sooo bee-ug! Hay’s sooo bee-ug, that yooo caint even say eem when yer readin’ the bah-bull!” But yeah, you get the idea, I’m adorable and three and I totally understand this crazy concept of God’s bigness.

When you’re little, it’s so easy to understand that something is unfathomably big, because everything’s big to you! I even remember the picture I had of God at this age – I would read the bible so I could know God, but I couldn’t see him because his bigness made it impossible. I pictured my little self holding my bible, and my little self only measured up to the ankle of God’s long Dumbledore robes. (Dumbledore didn’t exist yet at the time, but you know Dumbledore is how we all pictured God – tall, skinny, long-bearded, white-haired dude in white robes.) And my little self could look up, and I could see just a tiny bit of God – that portion of the white robes that wasn’t too gargantuan to see, but God himself held the world. I mean it’s actually kind of deep when you think about it, really. I think there’s a reason why Jesus praised the faith of a child.

This idea of a gargantuan God knowing me – it’s amazing, and beautiful, and easy to forget as an adult. I’m a well-educated big girl now, and it’s easy to think of myself as smart, thoughtful, and big. I’ve grown, but I’ve also puffed up. And this is why I love Psalm 139. David takes time in this song to sing about some earthly, poetic comparisons to God’s bigness, the exposure of my sinful puffed-upness, and the wonderful truth that my actual smallness doesn’t stop God from knowing every little thing about me.

Verses 1-6: Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it.

God can see into the depths of my soul. He knows exactly what I’m doing and thinking. I love “you understand my thoughts from far away.” I think of the best friends I’ve ever had – you know, those friends who just understand me, and I never have to explain myself? And those friends who I can go a long time without talking to, and when we talk again, we just pick up right where we left off as if there hasn’t been any time at all? God just gets me. He knows what I mean when I talk. When I stray from his side and then repent and return, we pick up right where we left off. He knew me wherever I went. I also love “you are aware of all my ways.” I think about my husband in this one – he knows exactly how to load the dishwasher the way I like and that I prefer to run all laundry with cold water. He knows that I like the bed made so that I can slide into the covers every night and that the milk goes on the top shelf of the refrigerator and not the door. He knows that toilet paper goes over, not under (this one isn’t a preference, it’s just the difference between right and wrong, obviously). Ryan knows my ways. How much more does my God! He knows both my funny quirks and the depths of ugly I can reach. He knows. Before I talk, he knows what I’m going to say. He could finish my sentences. He can predict my instinctual responses to things. He knows. He encircles me – he hems me in, in NIV translation. I think of the Israelites being led by God with the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud. God is before me and behind me. He’s big enough to completely surround me, yet he can understand the smallest things about me. I can’t fathom this! Like David says, this extraordinary knowledge is above me, too lofty for me to reach. My wee brain just can’t get this. God is so big.

Verses 7-12: Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, Even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will become night” Even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.

This idea of the enormity of God can be comforting, like it was from 3-year-old Mely. But also, it is totally overwhelming. When reading verse 7, I immediately think of Adam and Eve, right after the fall in Genesis 3:

Verses 8-10: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” 

Upon the exposure of his sinful soul, Adam’s instinct is to hide from God. It’s too much to fathom, and it hurts to think about – we can suddenly see just how “naked” we are, and it’s scary and embarrassing! We think that the darkness can hide us, so we hide. But God is the very light. Darkness flees, shadows fall back, and we are left completely bare, the camera’s exposure setting whacked way up, light seeping into every festering corner. God is light, and light exposes all. He sees into the darkness as if it is as bright as noon. We can’t run away from Him. We can’t hide or escape. This is both awful and wonderful. I’m embarrassed of the darkness in me, of how dirty and gross and dark my sin is, and how very different I am from His light. So I try to hide, which is silly. My darkness isn’t a surprise to God. It’s just like day to Him.

Verses 13-16: For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.

I. Love. This. Part. For so many reasons. For one, I am a mother, so I’ve literally felt a child (two children, actually) as they’ve formed in my womb. It is total magic to feel those fluttery kicks and dream of who that little creature will be. And as those little creatures grew in me, I had no idea, and I still have no idea, who they’ll become. Total magic. But God knows. He’s so big, yet He is intricate enough to form babies from nothing – remarkable, individual, totally unique creatures whose basic existence brings Him glory. Total and complete magic, you guys.

I also love this verse for myself. It’s easy (and natural) to feel insignificant when I begin to come to terms with the great vastness of God. But it’s just the opposite! How can I ever be insignificant if the God of the universe took the time to create me from my very guts? The Hebrew word for “inward parts” is actually the word for kidneys here. In ancient Hebrew culture, the kidneys were believed to be a metaphor for a person’s most inner self – soul, conscience, feelings. Kidneys are not easily accessible organs, or at least they certainly weren’t to ancient Jews, so they are a representation of the parts of us that people cannot easily see, but are innate to our existence and still totally visible to God. God took the time to create me all the way down to my soul. I am totally individual, totally planned, totally thought of. Your works are wonderful, God! I know that full well! 

God is the great Artist. He planned me when I was formless, and He knew already exactly who I would be, like a great sculptor picturing a masterpiece out of a lump of marble. It’s just way cool, like Hagrid playing a mouse-sized game of Operation and somehow executing it perfectly. Magic!

Verses 17-18 God, how difficult your thoughts are for me to comprehend; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with you. 

Not only is God vast, but so are His thoughts. This is where my puffed-upness comes to the forefront of my mind. I’m so smart, right? I understand stuff. I’m logical, and I have wisdom, right? This gets real for me, because one of my most sinful areas is my tendency to think I’m always right and I have all the answers. The truth, though, is that I just don’t get it. His thoughts are higher than mine. There is a whole level of truth and God-logic that I’ll never comprehend. I could sit there and count grains of sand. Or I think of Horton searching through 2,999,999 clovers to find the people of Whoville, and I realize that I’m just one tiny Who of thought among that enormous clover field of God-thoughts. How am I so small? And then how am I still important? And then, and then, how is He still with me, still seeking and searching me like Horton, never giving up on he Whos? Unfathomable.

Verses 19-22: God, if only you would kill the wicked – you bloodthirsty men, stay away from me – Who invoke you deceitfully. Your enemies swear by you, falsely. Lord, don’t I hate those who hate you, and detest those who rebel against you? I hate them with extreme hatred; I consider them my enemies.

This is probably the most confusing part of the psalm, as it is seemingly random. All this beautiful and encouraging talk about our worth is suddenly a stark contrast to this obviously hateful speech. But I think the hateful speech is here to make a grander point. David sees characteristics that he hates in his enemies: those who pray to God in deceit, for their own gain, those who swear by God but don’t really believe in Him, those who rebel against God. He acknowledges that these traits are evil, and he doesn’t want any part of them. After all this talk about God seeing him and his inability to escape God, God’s omniscience and omnipresence and omnipotence, David wants to plea with God to remove the parts of himself that mock God and reflect sin. This becomes clear at the conclusion of the chapter:

Verses 23-24: Search me, o God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.

David knows what God finds offensive: it’s our tendency to make ourselves as big as God. We idolize ourselves, pretending to pray to God when we think we know the answers ourselves and instead doing whatever we want, we speak as if we know God but don’t act in a way that reflects the humility that comes from understanding God’s greatness, and we go our own way instead of following God’s. David prays – after praising God and being in awe of His greatness – that he’ll never take God’s greatness for granted. He prays that God will adjust the parts of him that praise himself, so that he can focus his praise on the One who really deserves it.
God, you see me for exactly who I am, wonderfully made from guts to bones to skin to soul, planned and purposed by you for your glory. I’m so small, yet still so significant anyway. I’m worth something to you. Help me to see the things about myself that are sinful, and remove those things from me so that I can walk with you forever.

Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 1

Dealing with Depression/Anxiety: Part 1

I’ve always been a Negative Nelly, but my hopeless feelings about life have really gotten out of hand over the past few years, especially since giving birth a year ago to my daughter. It turns out that I have Postpartum Depression! Hooray for me (sarcasm is an important part of my life as a Negative Nelly)!

This isn’t a popular topic to discuss, really, because nobody wants to be the big ole whiner of the group. But I’m afraid in our understanding as a society that whiners are annoying people who are frustrating to be around, we are missing some important opportunities to learn how to understand a group of people who have a legitimate chemical issue that is overwhelmingly difficult to overcome. And some of those people, in their attempt to not be the whiner of the group, suffer totally in silence when they really need help.

Depression and Anxiety are different for every person, so I don’t think that what I’m going to talk about here necessarily applies to every sufferer. I do think that sharing my experiences about what it feels like, what helps and what hurts it, and how I have learned to cope and even overcome it may provide someone a new view into life with depression or possibly provide hope for someone else who is struggling, so I’ve decided to write a 3-part blog mini series about my PPD. Here’s part 1: What It Feels Like.

What It Feels Like

It is difficult to contextualize what depression feels like. I’ve heard lots of people talk about how it’s not just feeling especially sad (like The Office, lol, hope you’ve seen that one, “Dwight, you ignorant slut”) but that it’s more than that. Sure, it feels sad sometimes. Gloomy. In the dumps. But it’s just more involved than that. It feels heavy, like everything normal is just harder to do. Everything feels overwhelming. I’ll look at my dishes in the sink and have a panic attack (anxiety) and feel utterly hopeless (depression) because doing those dishes just feels impossible. I often know that I’m being irrational, and I even think that in the moment (Mel, you’re being irrational, dishes are not that difficult and they only take a few minutes to finish), but I can’t seem to shake the feeling of being overwhelmed. It feels like I’m doing normal things, but I have to do those things while wearing a house on my head. It’s just heavy. This is really the best way I can describe it.

I’m also naturally a pessimist (which is not the same thing as being depressed, by the way), so I will face normal, everyday tasks with a feeling of pointlessness. What’s the point of doing this, it’s just going to result in [insert difficult-to-deal-with thing here]? And there’s a sense of anger involved, like why can’t I just be happy? I wish I was just happier and more laid back and just could deal with things better. Often, when dealing with my depression symptoms, I will still see everything wonderful in my life. I’ll notice my beautiful children and how wonderful they are, how smart, how magical it is that they are learning so much everyday, how silly they are, how joyful they are. And I’ll notice that I have a beautiful home, a great support system, wonderful friends and family, and an amazing God. I’ll see His blessings, and I’ll know it is there. But the stupid thing about depression is that I can see all of those things, but I can’t seem to be glad about them. I know they are good things, but I just don’t have any feelings toward them. There is an emptiness involved. This is a frustrating place to be, because often advice toward people with depression is “just focus on the positive things in your life, and it’ll make you feel better.” Well, that sometimes just doesn’t work. I can see and focus on all the positive things in my life like crazy, but it doesn’t change my resting hopelessness.

Sometimes, I’ll be doing some regular old task, and I’ll think for a fleeting moment about something. Sometimes it is random, and other times it is triggered by something I see (like in my Facebook newsfeed, for example, this seems to happen a lot). For example, I’ll suddenly remember a situation in which I said something or did something stupid or hurtful to someone. This is a normal thing for me, because I am the queen of putting my foot in my mouth on accident and then stressing out about it for weeks later. My heart will start to race. I’ll keep looking through Facebook and I’ll start thinking about something else. 10 minutes will pass, but I’m still feeling very upset and my heart is still racing, and I can’t remember why I’m upset. This is extremely common for me. And a lot of times, I won’t even be able to register what it was that triggered the anxiety, which results in hopeless frustration and the cycle restarts.

The most frustrating thing about anxiety and depression for me is undoubtedly how stupid and irrational it is. I am a very logical person. I believe in truth and reason. They matter to me and guide me. I think God made us with the ability to reason because logic is a helpful tool in difficult situations. So when logic, truth, and reason don’t change how I feel about things, I get kind of mad. I don’t want to feel this way. I’m sick and tired of feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. I’m annoyed at myself that I just can’t seem to beat it. I’m irritated at society which teaches that positive thinking just changes everything. And so I start to get mad. The anger is really the way that my depression starts to show to the rest of the world. I snap at people and get short tempered. I’m angry with myself for my dumb depression. I’m much less forgiving and kind and patient when I let my depression win. Or, what is even more common – I’ll crawl into a deep hole and not let any part of myself show. This was my standard coping mechanism for about 10 years (during which I never realized that I might have had depression). Being so afraid of being rejected for my irrational feelings of depression, and being so afraid of being unworthy of people’s love and attention, I sank back into a shell of myself with no defining features worth anyone’s time. When I look back, it is a miracle that anyone cared for me, and I praise God for those unconditional friends and teachers every day.

So to sum up, depression and anxiety feel heavy. They make regular things feel harder or even impossible. I often can’t remember why I’m feeling anxious, but my body still has symptoms. I get frustrated that my feelings are illogical. I get angry at myself, which displaces into anger at others. I crawl into my personal hole and reduce contact with people whenever possible.

After reading all of this, you are probably thinking “Boy, that’s frustrating” or possibly “Geez, you’re a hopeless whiner.” And that’s what I’m thinking, too! So you are not alone! But I want you to know something important about my depression:

It is not winning.

Hope wins, you guys.

I want you to know my philosophy on life as I finish this post. There is so much hope. I believe in God. I believe He is a powerful God who loves me endlessly, remarkably, sacrificially, amazingly. I believe that I do not deserve this love. Inherently, I am worth crap because I am full of sin. I mess up all the time infinity amounts and to epic proportions, and because of those mess ups, I am not worthy to be in God’s presence. God wants me in His presence anyway. He loves me anyway. And that truth is enough to live off. I have depression and a little bit of anxiety. But I am loved, loved, loved, loved, loved beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond any understanding that I can have, beyond any reason or logic. I know that this is true, and that truth keeps me going through the day, through the symptoms of depression, through the spells of anxiety, through the feelings of hopelessness. That basic, utter truth is enough for me to find all the hope and peace and joy in the world. But it is a matter of choosing that truth even when it doesn’t change my feelings about things – that’s the battle of my depression.

So now that you have a basic understanding of what my depression and anxiety feel like, be on the lookout for my follow-up post about how I’ve been treating it.

Side Note: I’m not a big medicine taker, so I was very reluctant to start any medication to treat my depression, especially since I was breastfeeding at the time when we realized that I have it. So I sought after natural methods. Natural methods do not work for everyone. Some people really, really need the medicine. I will tell you that a deciding factor for me that I didn’t need medication was that I definitely have clinically diagnosed postpartum depression, but I’ve never once seriously considered ending my life. I feel like my life is pointless a lot of the time, but I know that there are too many people who love me desperately and depend on me daily. My life is too important, even when it feels hopeless. If you have thoughts of suicide, please understand that your life is too important. Don’t give it up. Don’t let depression win. It is stupid and dumb, and you are not. If you need medication, please take it (in the appropriate amounts and at the appropriate times of day). If not, you probably still need treatment. I sought treatment through Christian counseling and a few personal disciplines, and I’m starting to realize that there are connections in my depression to what I eat and do each day (diet and exercise greatly make a difference). I’m realizing that our bodies are more connected to our minds than we realize.