Spring is lingering and taking the long way home this year. Everywhere I look, flowers show off their beauty without even trying — bougainvillea vines, poppies, daisies, lilies. Even the hills on the sides of the freeways sing their yellow hues wholeheartedly. Every street is lined with trees crowned with blossoms — branches of pinks, whites, and purples swaying in the wind, their loose flower petals dancing to the ground and littering the streets like confetti. Jasmine bushes took the place of orange tree blossoms pouring their perfume into the air, and spring has awakened every sense, inviting me to be present, to linger with it.
There’s one tree in particular that has been catching my eye. It sits on the sidewalk of an unimportant street on the drive I take to the kids’ schools. It’s one of many of its kind, and if you don’t look closely, it looks like all the others.
But this one stands out to me because of its trunk. There are blossoms adorning it starting at the very bottom of the trunk and then encircling it all the way to the branches that are full of them. Each one seems to have been perfectly placed, as if tucked into the knotted bark by an artist’s hand.
In its own modest yet spectacular way, it sings praise to its Creator, and seeing it makes me worship Him too.
Everything on earth will worship you;
they will sing your praises,
shouting your name in glorious songs.
Psalm 66:4 (NLT)
Everytime I pass by it, I feel the tug of God’s presence, His voice telling me that I am like the tree — that I have been created by Him, that each part of me has been perfectly placed as well, that my being sings praise to my Creator by simply being because all of me has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
For so much of my life, I didn’t believe it was so. Of course, I believed each person was fearfully and wonderfully made, but I used to only believe it in a generic sense. Psalm 139:14 was more like a broad brush that painted dignity and awe over each human being, but I didn’t think of it like a fine-tip pen that intentionally marks the details of a person. I didn’t think to consider that it might apply to me in the shape of my eyes, in the rounded curves of my face.
For so much of my life, I wished — whether consciously or subconsciously — to not look so . . . Asian. I wanted to look more Western, to look more white. I wished for the deeply set eyes, the double eyelids, the more prominent yet thinner nose. I wanted the strawberry-shaped jawline and not my rounded cheeks and square chin.
I remember reading Amy Carmichael’s story about how as a child, she would pray that God would change her brown eyes to blue and feeling the same longing to look different than I did when I moved back to the States in high school.
I had been a missionary’s kid who had lived overseas for most of my formative years, coming back when I was sixteen with no idea how much I wouldn’t fit in. I wrestled between wanting to be seen and yet stay invisible. I wanted, like Amy Carmichael, to meet the beauty standards that were considered the norm, not understanding or believing that the standards were skewed to only consider a certain shape of eyes or nose or face or body to be desirable.
There are still days when I’m surprised at the face that looks back at me. When I’m often the token Asian at work, at conferences, at most things outside of church, when I spend hours after hours with people who don’t look like me, I catch my reflection as I pass by a window or mirror and wonder,
Why is my face so round and flat? Why are my eyes so small? Why do I look so . . . foreign??
Even though I was born here. Even though I’ve spent the majority of my life here. Even though I know I am both Korean and American through and through. Even though I know all these things about myself, and yet, my mind cracks between what I look like and what I think I should look like.
But all those features of mine are the result of God’s creative handiwork to make me who I am — similar to the many who are around me but unique in my details.
My almond-shaped eyes have been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My round face has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My nose, as it is, has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My skin has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My gender has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My ethnicity has been fearfully and wonderfully made.
My body and mind and heart that hold two cultures, that understand more than one language, that are just beginning to embrace my Koreanness more wholly are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I park in the nearby 7-eleven parking lot and walk over to the tree that has captivated me this spring, and as I take a closer look and notice its cracked bark, the chip bag that’s been left near its feet, the blossoms that are beginning to wilt, I see beauty still. I see His wonder. And I sing His praises along with it.
My being sings praise to my Creator by simply being because all of me has been fearfully and wonderfully made. -@gracepcho: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
So beautiful ~ you are!! Your heart exposed here for many to see, the poignancy of your words!! Thank you, Grace, for allowing us to know you ~ &, therefore, ourselves a little better ~ through your eyes!!
Grace P. Cho says
Thank you for reading, Jessa!
Grace, there is something about this piece that speaks to me all the way to my core. I am as white and Anglo as can be and yet I often wanted my appearance to be different. Thank you for this lovely reminder that ALL of me is wonderfully made. And for the record, I have always thought you were so pretty…ever since I first encountered you at GraceTable.
Grace P. Cho says
Awwww, thank you, Mary! Yes, this message is for us all as we wrestle with and embrace how we’ve been made to be!
What a beautiful story this morning from lovely you! My family moved around a lot, so I struggled with fitting in. Your ethnicity singled you out. I had my chubbiness and my shabby clothes. We all long to be loved for being ourselves. People aren’t great at this. But God is perfect.
Grace P. Cho says
Yes, He is!
Dawn Feeguson-Little says
You know this is an excellent reading today. That kids song also comes to mind as I read todays reading. I still love it today. I am 48 years old
It reminds me just how much Jesus loves us all. I can’t remember when I first heard it but it is so true we are his Children no matter what age we are. I use it still sometimes in prayer life. This is the song. I don’t know all the words. I looked it up on youtube play it often to myself. Here it the title and some of the words of it. Jesus Love All The Children Of The World.
Red and Yellow Black and White. (We are all special to him) How true that kids song is to us as kids and as Adults. We no matter what age we are kids or Adults no matter what color we are we are all God Children and very special to him. I say Amen to that. Love Dawn xxx
Corazon Perez says
God is so great! In His greatness it shows in everything He created. I appreciate as well , as I look around all that He has made, from small things to big things. The Lover of my soul had me created in my mother’s womb just as I’am and much more as I will be. Am what I’am now is because of Him. My highest worship to the Lord Almighty the Maker of heaven and earth.To Him be the glory forever and ever.
Grace P. Cho says
I love all of your writing, always, but I love everything about this particular post, and ALL of you, friend.
Grace P. Cho says
These were sweet words to read this morning thank-you for sharing. As we all go about our day may we remember that, ‘We were wonderfully made’.
I hope that you all have a blessed day,
Thank you, Grace for reminding me to love myself more because God has created me “fearfully and wonderfully.” As a Filipino- American in this society, I also felt like I don’t belong, that I’m out of place. People constantly ask me where I’m from, what brought me here? Humans segregate and stereotype, but The Mighty Creator does not, and He loves us equally no matter what color or shape we are.
Grace P. Cho says
Yes, He does. We’re in this one together, Betty.
Beth Williams says
This world has a skewed view of beauty. It says if you are tall, skinny with the right facial features & hair then you are considered glamorous. But God-He sees things differently. He looks to inner beauty that we all have. He loves us for who we are & who we can be through His molding us. 1 Samuel 16:7 states: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I was born with two punctured ear drums. For years I was shy & had little self confidence. Basically I didn’t like myself or my looks. God has done a work in me. He has refined me & changed my outlook of myself. Now years later with eardrums fully healed I am a more self confident & out going person. We as Christians have a duty to help the younger generation learn to love themselves as they are. They need to know they are fearfully & wonderfully made in the image of Christ. He doesn’t make mistakes. No matter what the world says. They are loved by almighty God. Let’s go out & show them how beautiful they really are inside & out.
Grace P. Cho says
Yes, let’s pass down the confidence we can have knowing that God has made us as we are and how good that is!
Francee Strain says
You, my sister-in-Christ, are beautiful…and I’m glad you were made!
Bonnie Gray says
” I wrestled with wanting to be seen and yet stay invisible.” Dear Grace, I love that line because it resonates with me, too. I love how you share vulnerably and how even in the tree trunk, you notice the details and are sensitive to what God is whispering to you. You are unique, not like any other, and your insightful words and what you notice is encouraging us to do the same in ourselves and each other! 🙂 I’m looking forward to finally meeting you – after working with you through so many emails 🙂 – and seeing you in just a little bit at the (in)courage retreat and enjoy your company and get to know you better on this week’s journey, friend! 🙂 love, Bonnie
Lucretia Berry says
YES!!!! More of this please!!! When I look at you, I see the expansiveness of the Devine–to be all that has been embodied in you…and in me…and in someone else who presents completely differently than you and/or me. You are a custom-CREATED expression of the Devine. Thank you for sharing.