“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
~ Psalm 139.14, NRSV
“I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!”
~ Psalm 139.14, The Message
Our belief in race makes us dependent. It teaches us to prop our selves up on our appearance and the judgments that persons make about our appearance. The problem is that some of us are born with the physical attributes that our society has deemed beautiful and others are not. For some cultural groups, beauty seemingly (and thereby approval and acceptance) comes naturally and it is often considered or argued as inherent. But for others that do not possess the same external attributes, beauty is a process or a chore and social acceptance is hard won.
The psalmist praises God for the way in which he was made. He speaks of the God who is “acquainted with all of his ways” (cf. 139.3) and knows what he is going to say even before he says it. God can do more than finish his sentences but truly knows what the writer is thinking. The psalmist is completely known, his goings and comings, his thoughts, his habits.
In fact, there is nothing that is hidden from God because there is no place for the psalmist to hide: “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence (cf. 139.7)?” Notice that it is the psalmist who is considering life apart from God. God knows everything about him and yet, God is unmoved, unchanged, fixed, faithful: “You hem me in, behind and before and lay your hand on me.” God has seen and heard and known it all– and ahead of time but He does not take a hands off approach to His creation.
Why? Because God made the psalmist and He made us. God knows what we are made of: “For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (cf. Psalm 103.14). God is the seamstress or sewer of humanity. It was God who knit us together in our mother’s womb. God’s hands were on us long before race and touched us before the doctor spanked our bottom.
Race lowers our self- esteem because there is no talk of the God who formed our inward parts; we don’t praise God for that. We praise God for good hair, pretty eyes, the perfect nose and a pouty lip. Race lowers our self- esteem because:
1. Race invests our meaning and subsequent value in external attributes. It says that who we are and will be can be determined just by looks.
2. Race determines based on our external attributes the condition and status of our spiritual lives (i.e. socially colored black= heathen, absent of light; socially colored white = saved, the definition of purity). It says that if you are in the “out” group (versus the “in crowd”), then you are bad version of a human being and must not have a relationship with God. Or, because you are socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige, God does no desire a relationship with you.
3. Race says that the overall value of human beings is rooted in our appearance and that value is determined by human beings who also gain their position to judge based not on divine right but social approval and according to the appearance of their flesh.
We can esteem ourselves because of the way that we have been made and in praise of the One who made us. It is not what we are made up of that matters but how we were made and Who made us all. Our personal esteem, the means by which we evaluate our worth, should be rooted and grounded in the love of God. It should not be based on the approval ratings of our society.
“God proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8). That how much God esteems us.