A pastor of ours often would say “God is God—and we’re not.” The psalmist may have that idea in mind while musing on God’s eternal nature, creative powers, and skills at surveillance. The psalm also offers a complementary viewpoint: God considers all of us very important. We often say, “We’re all God’s children,” giving little thought to the implication of that statement. In this scripture, the idea of God functioning as a parent—an involved, detail-oriented parent—is inescapable.
When I was growing up, a child of parents who had been formed by a Roman Catholic, urban, blue-collar, immigrant-influenced culture, we didn’t discuss self-esteem. I never heard the term until college, and I was skeptical for a long time. Why do people need this ego-massage? Over the years, I have been humbled by my hard-hearted, judgmental attitude. Though the Italian peasant immigrants who were my grandparents and with whom I grew up had little privilege, I now have a lot. I grew up in a stable home with two parents, three grandparents, and a sister. I am a straight, white male. I had to try very intentionally to put myself in the shoes of a person who was bullied or struggling with a psychological or emotional challenge or who grew up surrounded by domestic violence or substance abuse. I am still working on getting better at practicing empathy, not only offering it but also receiving it. Psalm 139 reminds us that we are beautifully made, that the smallest aspect of our lives is known and considered important to the Creator of the universe—the God who’s always paying attention to what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, how we’re hurting. And the God with the power to be the ultimate “helicopter” parent.
Eternal parent, keep us mindful of the needs of our neighbors shaken by fear and anxiety, and direct us in ways we can offer your shielding love and care. Amen.
The call of Samuel and the intimate language of the psalmist this week reflect God’s knowledge of and care for each individual. God sees each one of us, no matter where we are in life and no matter how far we might feel from God. Paul seeks to encourage the Corinthians with this same truth. Believers may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, beaten down, even killed; but they are never defeated. The power of a personal God flows through them, even if this is not evident to the eyes of the world. We likewise should be personally caring toward those around us. Jesus models this in Mark, demonstrating that showing mercy is more important than following even religious regulations, for mercy is the heart of God.
• Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. When has a young person in your life or that of someone you know had to face the devastating consequences of a single bad decision? How did that affect your actions and behaviors?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. When have you experienced that life has no guarantees? How did you sense God’s presence in that time?
• Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-12. How do you attempt to be open to seeing Christ in everyone you meet?
• Read Mark 2:23–3:6. When do you, like Jesus, try to be proximate to persons in need? How has that changed your life?
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