For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it 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 saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139.13-16.
Today is my 67th birthday and this is not a random scripture — I have chosen it to begin a time of celebration by reminding myself of two wonderful truths.
First, God made me. I am his special creation. Although, biologically, I am the product of the union between my mother and father back in May 1941 when my father was on leave from serving in the armed forces in Europe during World War II, I was sparked into life by God. I had an existence and a destiny in the mind and heart of God that simply awaited that union taking place one day in May. What God said to Jeremiah, he says to me today: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …” (Jeremiah 1.4-5).
And when that day in May arrived, God went to work. As Job put it, speaking of his own creation: “Oh, that marvel of conception as you stirred together semen and ovum — What a miracle of skin and bone, muscle and brain! You gave me life itself, and incredible love. You watched and guarded every breath I took” (Job 10.10-12, The Message).
What a miracle indeed. And what watching and guarding. Time and time again in my first weeks of life, I nearly died. I’m told that on one occasion my grandma revived me with a drop of brandy! But God was behind my grandma, whatever she did, and was in every breath I took.
Second, even in the womb (“the depths of the earth”) as the Lord looked at my undeveloped embryo (“my unformed substance”) he had a purpose and a plan for me. As he watched me being carried into the air-raid shelter as the “doodlebugs”, the VI bombs, were targeted on Britain, he knew that there was no need for the panic and fear surrounding me … He could see me sitting writing this post 65-or-so years later. He saw the school-days. He saw the teacher (Mr Patterson, God’s chosen instrument) taking me to a Children’s Mission in Manchester in 1953. He saw me see Jesus, as he, the Lord, revealed himself to me at that Mission. He saw me hear him call me to preach and teach. He saw me becoming an accountant. He saw the heavy smoking, the heart attacks, the by-pass surgery. He saw himself freeing me from my addiction. He saw my marriage … and my divorce. He saw my meeting and loving Yvonne. He saw my marriage to her and all the blessings it has brought me. And as I sit here now, he sees every day that still awaits me … just as he saw them as I was forming in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. And I thank you from the heart for every moment of my life. For your unfailing love and compassion; for your patience and forbearance; for your mercy and abundant grace. I thank you for all the countless blessings you have showered upon me, and on this my birthday I pray I may live this and every day that remains to me to your praise and glory. Amen.