“Lord, I am wonderfully made! Wonderful are all your works!” (Psalm 139:14)
To strengthen our marriages, we first have to be willing to acknowledge that our own unique design is a wondrous thing.
After that, we can help each other. It’s a little like putting on your own oxygen mask first, so you can help the person next to you, without passing out.
Here’s another way to think about how we view ourselves.
If I were to have a Catholic physician write this week’s column, she might wax poetic about our brains and complex body systems, like the cardiovascular, immune, and endocrine systems, as well as our fascinating cellular structures, and amazing capacity for growth, self-repair, and learning.
Inspired by her specialized insight, we might easily contemplate God’s spectacular design of our physical being and be awed by the order and beauty of his creation in us. From there, we might be transported to contemplating the earth in all its glory and then the universe, with its solar systems, stars, nebulas, planets, and black holes.
Did you know that many astrophysicists, as a result of contemplating the mere numerical data behind the structures of the universe, are increasingly admitting that none of it could reasonably exist without a Designer?
Some are becoming deists just based on the magnitude of mathematical probabilities involved in each of an astronomical number of subtle, mutually-interdependent conditions that must be present in the right order, progression, and timing for the solar systems to exist at all, never mind for a planet to sustain life. That blows their minds completely, as it should!
We can praise God for the way he is revealing himself more and more through science because, as he says himself in Genesis 1:31, all of his creation is “good”!
“God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
Do I hear an “amen!”?
And yet, when it comes to ourselves, we are wary. Fearful of becoming narcissistic or egoistic, we recoil from contemplating the beautiful design God has given to each of us as “unique and unrepeatable” persons. (CCC 2275)
It’s understandable. The world has taken a healthy appreciation for our humanity and twisted it into a cult of selfishness and self-absorption. Followers of Christ want no part in anything that diminishes our understanding of our human dignity as originating and finding its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, who emptied himself to pay for our sins.
Yet, to avoid appreciating our own unique design is like refusing to look up in awe at a starry night, simply because the pagans got it wrong, seeing instead of God’s design, a panorama of their own imaginative myths and deities playing out in the constellations.
If fact, if we are too afraid to notice how beautifully we are designed and purposed by God, we can fall into the dangerous territory of feeling randomly made or batch-produced–as if God would not have poured himself 100% into each “unique and unrepeatable” soul with perfect love, creativity, and intention.
And that kind of thinking can leave us discouraged, which is the territory of our spiritual enemy.
Let’s not miss out on the good and holy because of the misguided.
I’d like to challenge you, this week, to dwell on these verses, from Psalm 139:13-18 (NAB), which are at the heart of everything I do as a coach and which I believe can help uplift the Church in our times. This awareness can support our becoming that bright “city on a hill” that Jesus wants us to be (Matthew 5:14), to embody a spirit of courage and love, not timidity (2 Tim 1:7).
Notice the intentionality of God’s design, the sense of purpose, the tenderness, and awe:
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.
Please. If you’re reading this, bring this to prayer.
Get to know your own being. Dig into God’s design of your talents. Find out what he is saying to you through that design and ask him where he wants to meet you in that design: through your prayers, in your relationships, in your rest, and in your work.
And once you find yourself falling in love with God all over again because of his generosity, you’’ll hold in your hands a map to the inevitable discovery of a greater clarity of purpose for your life, which will connect directly to the Lord’s loving invitation to greater joy and meaning.
You’ll be ready to trust him more consistently and love him more boldly.
I’ll say that again:
You’ll be ready to trust him more consistently and love him more boldly.
For his glory and for the salvation of souls.
Now, back to your marriage!
Here are some ways you can leverage this appreciation of the beauty of God’s design in strengthening each other in marriage (again, I draw insights from Strengths-Based Marriage, by Jimmy Evans and Alan Kelsey, pp 139-146):
- Become a “talent scout,” by looking out continuously for strengths in your spouse. What is she doing that caught your detective’s eye, and what is the observable strength at play? Watch particularly for the joy you detect in her when she’s doing something she naturally does well. Take these observations to prayer and come up with other times you’ve seen this talent at work in her.
- Start pro-actively giving him opportunities to live in the joy that emerges when he is operating in a natural strength. Encourage the healthy behaviors and activities that are wired into him, so he can practice them and experience the lift and sense of accomplishment that are woven into his being. His strengths will become even stronger, and he’ll be much happier.
- Come together with your talent reports,* and read the nuanced feedback on your top five talents, together. (This is a fun date night activity.) Comment on each other’s feedback by noting the action, the strength, and the joy connected with each talent. After you’ve read about yourselves to each other, switch reports to read aloud from each other’s feedback, and say even more about the goodness, joy, and capability you see in each other. Keep in mind this is God’s design you’re admiring, so avoid any “snark” or even lukewarmness. Be there for each other and be generous.
- Notice which words and phrases are naturally arising in your conversations around each other’s admirable qualities and capabilities, and keep using those words and phrases again and again, whenever you see those talents in daily life. Embrace having a private “code,” a special way of speaking about how each of you is wonderfully made, so that your home is a place of encouragement and safety.
I’m eager to hear how it goes for you! So please comment below!
In the final post of this six-part series (next week, for Valentine’s Day), I’ll talk about the four talent “domains” and how to use them for planning wonderful, affirming date nights!
In fact, I’ll be on the Morning Air show, on Relevant Radio, at 7:10 am ET, Monday, February 14, discussing this very topic!
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See you next week!
* Check out the following resources:
If you’d like to take the CliftonStrengths® assessment, please reach out to me. I can save you $10 each on the reports. I get nothing for doing that. It’s my gift to you. If you want to go ahead without my assistance, you can find more information here.
Again, my favorite book on marriage and strengths:
Strengths-Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts, by Jimmy Evans and Alan Kelsey
God bless you!
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