For thou didst form my inward parts,For many people, Psalm 139 is a beautiful hymn to God's glory and ever-present providential love. Knowing that He is so much a part of our lives, that He even carefully knit us together from the very moment of our conception brings a sense of comfort, wonder, awe, and even purpose to our lives.
thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.
Wonderful are thy works!
Thou knowest me right well;
my frame was not hidden from thee,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;
in thy book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
But such is not the case for everyone. When Sean asked me the question that forms the basis for this article, he admitted that this idea gave him a lot of trouble. He wrestled a lot with that passage in Psalm 139, about how God knits us together in our mothers' wombs. He said, "either that's not true, and the Bible has errors, or it is true and therefore God hates me. Because if He specifically put me in my mother's womb, that's the only logical conclusion."
In discussing this issue with Sean, I tried to provide alternative explanations--that God can use these problems for good, if Sean would let Him. That Sean could "offer up" his sufferings to Jesus for great spiritual and physical good for others, such as healings or conversions. And while the Church's teaching of "Redemptive Suffering" is true and good, and in very real ways has helped so many people recognise that there is a purpose to our suffering--that it is not in vain--nevertheless, the answers I had never seemed to quite get to the core of Sean's question--and the question behind the question, which was, at bottom, why did God put Sean inside that particular woman's womb? Beyond the unhelpful obvious, I had nothing.
Then one day we were discussing the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sean attends a Protestant church and, with the upcoming Christmas season, the pastor there felt that he had to say something about the Blessed Mother--which, as so often is the case, ends up being an anti-Catholic polemic against "Mariolatry". The pastor, in his sermon, basically denied (and misrepresented) Catholic interpretations of Mary, so Sean came right to me, and we began discussing it. Marian dogmas are difficult for him, as they are for most Protestants.
But all of a sudden he says to me, "I was thinking about Mary the other day, and all of a sudden I felt like I was in love. Not in a weird sexual way, but like she was the most perfect Lady and my Mother, all at the same time. I can't describe the feeling, but I still get all shy and blushing when I think about it--totally not like me!" (He is the lead singer in a rock band, after all.)
Sean and I had been discussing the Catholic Church's various teachings about Mary, and he had still felt somewhat uncomfortable about them. Yet doctrines are not the person that they describe. That is, the goal of the Christian life is not adherence to specific doctrinal formulations (although that is important and necessary). The Doctrines are there to point us to a person, and to lead us into relationship with that person. The Ultimate Goal is obviously to be led deeper into relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ. And yet that familial relationship with Jesus includes the rest of His family with it. Jesus, our Elder Brother, brings us into right relationship with His Father and our Father. And in His total self-giving, He give us all His family, too. Including His own Mother, whom He gave us at the Cross.
And Mary, true to her whole purpose for being, her one, truest love, leads us through a relationship with her, deeper in relationship, deeper in love, with God Himself.
So I said to Sean, "Remember how you said that if God knit you together in your mother's womb, then He must hate you? Does the fact that God gave you His own Mother help to make up for that?"
He was so overwhelmed by that he almost cried, and had to go offline just to meditate on that notion for a while. Mary brought healing to Sean's anger at God for the pain in his life because of his biological mother's abuse, and helped to mend a rift in Sean's relationship with Jesus.