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Have you stood before a magnificent ocean, feeling its majestic power and misty thunder as it slaps the shoreline and drags the sand into its lair?
I have. And when I do, I feel very small.
The largeness of the ocean envelops my sense of frame. I feel as vulnerable as a twig, as ungrounded as a feather, as diminutive as a dust particle, floating and landing without notice, without effect.
This feeling of excessive smallness, of course, may have something to do with my own state of vertical challenge. Oh yes, I'm often caught exaggerating that my stature is five feet three inches, when actually I'm just five feet two and two-thirds. (You'd be surprised how much self-esteem that one little third of an inch can add.) It wouldn't be such an exaggeration, anyway. When you include the hair poof atop my head and the three inches of chunky rubber beneath my heels, I'm really a towering five foot eight!
I've always wanted to be taller.
I've tried every way I know to elongate my spine as I walk or stand, executing my best model-like posture in an attempt to make up for my missing inches. I'm even short-waisted! There can't be more than two inches between my lowest rib and the top of my hip. I haven't tucked in a shirt for years. When I do, I just look like someone tried to compress me-my hips get wider, my legs squattier. It's awful!
In addition to my Zacchaeus complex, I've acquired other related maladies.
I'm often short-tempered.
I have a short memory. (Except when it comes to my husband's mistakes-those I can remember forever!)
I'm frequently shortsighted.
I'm also usually short on cash. And patience.
In the larger sense, however, we're all small. It doesn't matter if you're a tall, willowy woman or some towering specimen of manhood. No matter what our vertical inches, we must all eventually recognize that we're pretty small potatoes.
The prophet had the right idea when he said of the Lord, "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers" (Isaiah 40:22).
David understood as well. He was merely a boy, lowest on the family totem pole compared to his older brothers, when the prophet Samuel proclaimed he would one day rule Israel as king. He must have felt ridiculously undersized when King Saul sought to dress him in the royal armor to fight Goliath. He was swallowed by it, eventually shedding it for his simple garb. Years and years later, as a middle-aged king himself, the gentle psalmist must have felt the frailty of his stature as the man after God's heart broke God's heart in choosing Bathsheba rather than battle.
I wonder what it must have been like for him, even as a shepherd boy resting in the cleft of a rock, plucking his harp strings in the cool of the evening. Perhaps he looked across the silhouette of the surrounding Judean hills at dusk and thought of his smallness. Perhaps he gazed into the soft light of a star-blanketed sky and once again felt his size. Maybe it was then that he wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4).
Like David, we all should be more reflective. We should consider the grandeur that surrounds us and contemplate our own size within its scheme. Depressing, you say? Overwhelming? Not at all. In fact, the more we consider God's greatness and our smallness, the more we will marvel at the great value He has placed on our lives. Small, frail, earthbound, and fallen though we are, those who belong to Jesus Christ are greatly valued through all of time, and time beyond time. Not even a sparrow falls that our heavenly Father doesn't see. You and I are far more valuable than that tiny sparrow. God's signature of creation was written on the very heart and frame of man. We really are His workmanship.
It all began, of course, with God's spoken word. All the grandeur, all the majesty, all the wonder of a creation beyond our comprehension began with His voice. It began with the words in Genesis 1:3, where God said, "Let there be light." From there, He spoke His vast creation into existence. Planets and stars. Mountains and oceans. Forests and animals. Birds and sea creatures. Towering trees and tiny flowers. All creation was initiated by God's word.
All except man.
It was with His hand, His touch, that He crafted the crowning jewel of all His handiwork. "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
Later, He gently fashioned a woman from the rib of Adam with those same hands. He could have spoken you and me into existence, too. But He chose to use His hands. It is His touch that separates us from all created things. It is His touch that defines and honors us above all other created beings.
Does God, a Spirit, truly have hands as we have hands? I'll leave that one for the theologians to solve. I only know that Scripture differentiates the way He formed man and woman from every other created thing. It wasn't business as usual. I don't know exactly how He did it, but I do know there was a special touch.
And in that touch was honor.
I feel like David when I think of a glorious God breathing life into these earthen vessels. I'll bet you feel the same way. It's overwhelming to consider that it was His hand that formed and crafted us. The thought is disarming-that God would touch us and compassionately craft us according to His image. But sometimes, fixated as we become on our own frailty and flaws, we fail to recognize His touch or craftsmanship in our lives.
During my college years, a friend of mine gave me a very special gift. It was a beautiful Lladró porcelain figurine of a woman, with slender lines, adorned with a graceful hat and a vase of flowers. This delicate Lladró moved from city to city, from home to home, with my husband and me for the first seven years of our marriage. It was one of my most treasured possessions.
One fateful afternoon, though, our four-year-old son was playing a game of hide-and-seek near the table where the Lladró gracefully stood. A bump of the table sent her to the floor, chipping the tips of the petals on her flowers. We glued her dainty pieces back together as best we could, but her bouquet was never the same.
Many years have passed. Another city, another home. My beautiful Lladró has followed, and she still finds her home in our living room. I often wonder why I value her so-why she has a place of honor on my mantel.
She's no longer smooth.
She's no longer perfect.
She's surely lost all monetary value.
I've come to realize that I value her because she reminds me of a person I know. I too am broken. I am imperfect. I've lost some of my slender lines. My bouquet has been chipped. In fact, we're all broken. We're all flawed. But we are still of value because Someone values us. Someone loves us and positions us in a place of honor. God continually honors us by the way He treats us. In fact, from the beginning of recorded time, we see the heart of God fixed upon us, His creation. In every book of the Bible, we see the value God places on us. We are reminded that He loves us and honors us with the wonder of His touch.
In Genesis, He fashions us with His hands. In Exodus, He gives us freedom and deliverance. In Leviticus, He gives us access to Himself. In Numbers, He builds cities of refuge to protect us. In Deuteronomy, He guides us with His protective hand. In Joshua, He honors us with the certainty of His divine purpose. In Judges, He shows mercy in spite of our repeated failures. In Ruth, He values us by bringing us into His family.
In 1 and 2 Samuel, He makes the insignificant significant. In 1 and 2 Kings, He honors us by His faithfulness toward us. In the books of the Chronicles, He makes our prayer powerful, granting us success. In Ezra and Nehemiah, He allows us to return to Him, gives us tools to rebuild all that is broken, and restores us to Himself.
In Esther, He gives us great purpose ... and makes us royalty. In Job, He restores us after we've suffered and shows Himself strong on our behalf. In Psalms, He calls us closer to Himself and encourages us to sing in His presence. In Proverbs, He reveals His wisdom to us. In Ecclesiastes, He gives meaning to our meaninglessness. In Song of Solomon, He draws us to run after Him, the Lover of our souls.
In Isaiah, He reveals the Savior to us. In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He sees our tears and gives us hope of greater freedom. In Ezekiel and Daniel, the sovereign Lord joins us in the midst of the fire. In Hosea, God pursues us to buy us back. In Joel, He blesses us when we repent. In Amos, He bears our burdens. In Obadiah, He keeps His covenant to us. In Jonah, He honors us by using imperfect man to fulfill His own perfect plan. In Micah, He invites us to walk humbly with Him. In Nahum, He comforts us. In Habakkuk, He places our lowliness in high places. In Zephaniah, He sings over us with great joy. In Haggai, God Himself makes His dwelling among us. In Zechariah, God reveals His plans for the future and assures us of His coming. In Malachi, God shows us we can't out-give Him as He pours out His blessing.
In the four Gospels, God puts on human flesh just to seek and save us. In Acts, He pours out His Spirit on us, and in Romans, He works all things for our good! In the letters to the Corinthians, He pulls us from error, teaches us the way of love, and points us toward unseen realities. In Galatians, He sets us free! In Ephesians, He lavishes us with the riches of grace. In Philippians, He gives us victory and joy. In Colossians, we are rooted and strengthened in Him-and overflow with thankfulness. In the letters to the churches in Thessalonica, He honors us by giving us a future hope. In the letters to Timothy, He offers us counsel and encouragement. In Titus, He equips us for good works. In Philemon, He turns our slavery into brotherhood. In Hebrews, He invites us to come boldly before His throne. In James, He teaches us practical religion. In 1 and 2 Peter, He gives us victory over suffering. In the three epistles of John, He assures us of eternity and invites us to walk in His light, life, and love. In Jude, our God tenderly keeps us from falling and values us so highly that He Himself presents us faultless before His own throne. And then in Revelation, He bestows the ultimate honor upon us as He receives us as His beloved and treasured bride.
You are the reason He established and kept His covenant. You are the reason He grew a tree that became a cross. You are so valuable to Him that He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV).
Have you recognized His touch? Do you believe that the value and honor He gives you make you complete? Never forget that you are so valuable you were worth dying for. Receive His touch and you will receive the honor and sense of value that you long for. After all, His eyes have always been on you. Your very life is covered with His fingerprints. Psalm 139 reminds us that our frame was not hidden from God when He knit us together in our mother's womb.
No matter how many miles we've walked in life's journey, His eyes have seen every step. Even when we don't feel valuable, we still are valuable. Even when we don't feel noticed, God's eyes never leave us. Even when we don't feel His touch, our lives reflect His hand. Even when darkness surrounds us, we can be sure that there is a God who sees us.
There was a woman who lived centuries ago who understood what it meant to be "seen" by God. She was a simple Egyptian slave girl named Hagar. When I asked my husband, a business professor, if he was familiar with the story of Hagar, he confidently announced, "Of course I am!" Then he proceeded to explain to me how decades ago a clever entrepreneur created and marketed a pair of leisure pants that would be both comfortable and professional for the American male. He went on to discuss their successful sales figures at J. C. Penney and their frequent appearance on The Price Is Right.
Well, that wasn't exactly the Hagar I was thinking of. But at least he didn't mention the portly cartoon Viking featured in the comic strips! These days, this lady from the pages of Scripture seems destined to play second fiddle to a cartoon character and a pair of pants. But let me tell you her story and about the honoring touch of God on the life of this female slave.
We find Hagar in Genesis 16. She belonged to Sarai, the wife of Abram. Abram and Sarai had been promised a son who would become a great nation. Yet even a decade after the promise had been given, Sarai remained childless. In Sarai's attempt to "help God along a little" with His promise, she sent her slave girl, Hagar, into Abram's tent. The Bible says, "He slept with Hagar, and she conceived" (v. 4). Hagar, now pregnant with Abram's first son, began to run into trouble with her mistress.
Let's pick up the story in verses 5-6:
Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me."
"Your servant is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
And so Hagar ran away. That's what I would have done, too. That's what you and I do when we feel devalued or dishonored. We may not physically pack up and hit the road, but we do run away-emotionally and spiritually-from those who hurt us. Why do we run? The reasons are different for all of us. But most of us run to escape. We run to find a place where we might feel more significant or valued. Hagar ran to the wilderness to escape Sarai's abuse and the harshness of her circumstances.
Today, some of us run to anonymous relationships with fellow chatters on the Internet. Some run to bottles of pills or other destructive habits. Some run to the seemingly sanctimonious and sterilized escape hatch marked "Gossip." Oh yes, that's a place where we feel a temporary buzz of significance because we grow large in our own eyes as we belittle others. Think about where you run when you want to feel valuable. Think about where you end up. Is it really where you want to be? Does it satisfy your need to feel significant or honored?
At a Spring, in the Desert
As Hagar ran, she stopped to catch her breath by a spring of water in the wilderness. Can't you just see her? I'll bet she collapsed by the spring out of pure physical and emotional exhaustion. She felt like most of us do when we run-emotionally and spiritually spent. Many of us at different times in our lives have felt like Hagar must have felt-scared, resentful, tossed out, used. Those kinds of feelings can crush us, and we too can collapse under the weight. I wonder if Hagar wept from the pain of knowing that she'd never really been loved or valued. She had only been used and owned. I wonder if her tears were interrupted as she heard someone-someone as close as could be-speak her name.
She'd heard her name spoken before, of course. Countless times. Perhaps in her youth, back in Egypt, before slavery, she'd heard her mother or father speak her name kindly. She'd certainly heard it spoken as a command, as Sarai sent her out to fetch water or gather some sticks for a fire. Had she heard Abram whisper her name as he embraced her in the tent ... or did he even really know her name?
The voice she heard by the spring was different. Like no voice she had ever heard before. It was patient and kind and seemed to know her well. "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" (Genesis 16:8).
It was the voice of the angel of the Lord, whom many scholars identify as the Lord Himself in angelic form. He found Hagar, spoke her name, and inquired of her. It was like He said, "Hagar, I see you. What are you doing here? What's going on?" She answered candidly, "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai" (v. 8).
The angel of the Lord told her to return to Sarai, but reassured her with a promise. "I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count" (v. 10).
Excerpted from Fingerprints of GOD by JENNIFER ROTHSCHILD Copyright © 2003 by Jennifer Rothschild. Excerpted by permission.
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|1||Fingerprints of God||11|
|2||A Touch of Intimacy||29|
|3||His Sheltering Embrace||51|
|4||The Hand That Guides||67|
|5||His Redeeming Touch||87|
|6||Shaped by His Hand||105|
|7||Stay Under the Touch||123|
|8||Passing His Touch Along||137|