"Oh, Lord ... you knit me together in my mother's womb ... I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
- Psalm 139:13-14
Most of us have some complaint about our appearance, the limitations of our brain or a personality trait we can't seem to control. Though we could take our less-than-perfect selves to a plastic surgeon, join a health club or register for a course in anger management, chances are we would still find something we don't like about ourselves - even though the Creator of the universe designed us just the way we are: body, mind and temperament.
I'm no stranger to self-criticism, either, but until I read Rick Warren's bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, I had no idea how important that "knitting together" (Psalm 139:13) of strengths and weaknesses could be for the person God created me to be.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has accomplished what few Christian authors ever achieve. Released in October 2002, Purpose Driven Life reached The New York Times bestseller list by January, where it remained on or near the top for most of last year. At the same time, it became the No. 1 religious, hardcover book on both The New York Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, and No. 7 in sales on Amazon.com.
The only Christian books in recent memory to have done that well are the Left Behind series and The Prayer of Jabez.
The importance of this book, however, is not in its marketing credentials, but in the content of its 40 brief chapters. Warren's more than 700 Biblical references, plus his simply stated principles and memorable one-liners, make Purpose a pleasure to read as well as an inspiration.
A habitual note-taker, I filled 22 pages with Warren's key points and one-liners, all the while resisting the temptation to write down much more. Now I have the difficult task of choosing what tiny amount of that spiritual wisdom to outline in the little space I have left. I've settled on just two points: Why God made me - or you - the way we are, and some of our invalid excuses for not using the tools he gave us.
What you see is not all you get. The less-than-ideal exterior we fret about is only a covering for a brain capable of storing 100 trillion facts, a mind that can handle 15,000 decisions a second, a sense of touch that can distinguish an item 1/25,000th of an inch thick, and much, much more. Those qualities describe the masses, but God "knit together" a unique set of abilities and traits for everyone he created, for a purpose only that person can carry out. Quoting Ephesians 2:10 - "For we are his workmanship." - Warren explains that the word, "workmanship" means poem, a carefully crafted, one-of-a-kind composition like the one-of-a-kind person he created us to be.
Warren has a wonderful section about growth, and the impatience we feel when we don't accomplish more or improve our negatives in record time. After comparing our progress with the superior flavor of fruit that's been allowed to stay on the vine until it is ripe, Warren refutes our arguments with, "Even the snail reached the ark," and "God can make a mushroom overnight, but it takes 100 years to grow a giant oak."
For all those excuses we make that we can't do much for God, Warren says, "If God used only perfect people, nothing would get done." Then he offers a sampling of Biblical achievers, and their flaws: Abraham was old, Moses stuttered, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Samson was co-dependent, David was immoral, Thomas doubted, Peter was hot-tempered, Paul had poor health, Timothy was timid, and.
There's so much more. If you haven't read the book already, there's a perfect opportunity to study these 40 chapters during the 40 days of Lent, which begins Feb. 25.
The Army recruiter may invite you to "Be all that you can be," but God invites us to life-long service with eternal rewards, and gives us the right equipment for the task.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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