The title of this post is a phrase from one of Mary Oliver’s most beloved poems, which I share here as part of my ongoing series of poems, prayers, psalms, and promises. I have placed her poem alongside Psalm 139, which offers beautiful poetry of its own, and a powerful and comforting message. Each and every one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made, and known by God from before we were even in the womb. This message from Psalm 139 is so comforting, but easy to forget, too. These words, along with Mary Oliver’s poem and the brief readings from scripture, are offered with the prayer that they help us all to remember our place in the family of things.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. In you, O God, I place my trust. Help me now to quiet myself and listen, that the thoughts and prayers of my heart might be pleasing to you. Amen
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. 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. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:4-5
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. – Ephesians 2:8-10
Devotional Poem: “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
How weighty and lovely are your thoughts, O Lord! To think that you knew me from before you even formed me in the womb! To imagine that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by you, saved by faith, and loved forever! But I forget your promises, Lord, and I find myself walking on my knees, despairing, and wondering. When I forget, O God, announce to me my place in the family of things once more. When others forget, help me to remind them of their place, their loved place, in your family of things. Help us to work toward becoming a world where no child of yours can ever forget that they are loved by you. For whoever we are, Lord, we are yours. And wherever we go, you go with us, your goodness and mercy following us all the way through life. Thank you, Lord, for these gifts, in Christ Jesus. Amen