Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reader Response

When I was in college I took a class on literary criticism. We were twelve or so students crammed into a tiny room around a conference table. Our professor wrote the book we were studying, all about the many different types of literary criticism that exist. Funnily enough, I can only remember two of them. One was deconstructionism and I'd be hard pressed right now to explain to you what exactly that meant. I wrote a paper on it and explained it to my grandma, so I felt pretty smart.

The other I remember is reader response. This theory says that the meaning we draw from the text changes according to who is doing the reading. Not only can the effect of a text be different from person to person, but it can also change from time to time of encountering the text.

This past week, I've found this to be true of the Bible. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that the Bible has changed. But I've been looking into a passage of Scripture now that I was studying a few years ago and, with the experiences that I've had since last studying, have gained a completely new understanding.

Psalm 139 - it's a pretty well known Psalm. In the discipleship group I am a member of, we looked into this text over two years ago. I was in the throes of trying to get pregnant but we had been unsuccessful. I was watching friends of mine all over the place have babies and couldn't understand what God was doing. We looked into Psalms and beginning in verse 13 read,

For You formed my
inward parts;
You wove me in my
mother's womb.
I will give thanks to you,
for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in the secret,
And skillfully wrought in
the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in your book were written
all the days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Our leader, Erilynne, elaborated on the meaning of the Psalm saying that before time began, before any body was formed, before He called into existence life where there was no life, He knew the exact time that was chosen for the person to come into being and exactly what womb should be the one to carry it. Were it any other time or any other womb, it would not be the person God wanted.

This had a profound impact on me as a woman unable at the time to conceive a child. To begin to believe that there was a child that God had ordained for me to carry in my womb, created to be the perfect child not only for me, but for the perfect time in the history of the world, called to do HIS work - it made it harder to question why not me and why not now. This wasn't an easy truth for me to grasp, but it was truth nonetheless and I had to begin to live my life choosing to believe the truth as opposed to feeling sorry for myself (which I still did plenty, trust me).

Flash forward a few years. I'm now facilitating another Bible study, going through the same discipleship program. Last week we did the first half of the lesson on Psalm 139. I was amazed at how differently I read the Psalm and listened to this teaching now, having the child that God has given me. He created Lydia and knew her when there was no life in my womb. He knit her body together. This is a tough one for me to hold onto, because even though I know it's true, to recognize this truth is to accept that He knit her together in this broken way.

This was what He needed her to be. For this time, for His purpose - this is what He needed her to be. That's a hard truth to stomach every day, but it is truth.

That last verse gets me ever time. All of her days were ordained by Him before she had lived one of them. If I have to let her go, I know that even though it will feel like the wrong time in every way, it won't be. And I can argue all I want that it is too soon, but it won't be. Because He knew before He formed her the exact amount of days that He needed her to live to accomplish His purpose. And I know not every day will feel this way and some days I will shake my fist at Him in the pain and anger only a mother who has lost a child can know.

But it won't change the reality that what He created, what He worked, He will carry out to complete His perfect will. It's just the truth.


  1. You are an amazing Mom with amazing words and no matter what happens, when it happens, God will use and is using you and Micah and Lydia in everyone's lives who have read your story and keep up on Lydia and pray for Lydia. You have shown us that miracles still happen every day, every moment of our lives. You have reminded us that God is in control, even when we don't think he is. You have taught us that we need to trust Him no matter the circumstances. He loves us and is there for us whether we are shaking our fist at Him or crying at His feet.

  2. Hey Jen, some of what you said here reminds me of a blog I wrote myself waaaay back in December, I think it was. I have had many times of screaming at God, and He, of course, still loves me. And I know I will again.

    No matter when Joel passes away, I know it will NEVER be enough time for me. Of course not. That is how it is when we love someone. Of course, I know the good news is that one day I will be able to see Joel again, with God.

    It won't ever be enough in the meantime, though. Vent anytime you want to, and it's ok.

    lots of love,

  3. I gave each of my girls a verse and this was one of them. I too saw it differently as I watched my babies struggle in their incubators. And it doesn't feel right ever, but the truth has brought me comfort just as you said. I shook my fist too and on the outside I was hopping mad, but inside I just wanted God to hold me because I never forgot these truths...I am praying for you friend.