You Are Wonderful and Lucky!
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says, “We are God’s work of art.” Some translations say, “We are God’s masterpiece.” In what ways are you a work of art, a masterpiece? In what ways are you truly wonderful—and lucky? Let’s look at a few of those ways.
You are wonderful and lucky first of all by the fact that you exist. Your existence is due to your extremely fortunate personal ancestry. As Bill Bryson reminds us in his book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, “every one of your forebears on both sides (was) attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so.” Each one of your direct ancestors delivered a “tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment” that “eventually and astoundingly” resulted in you.
And how many ancestors was that? We all know we have 2 parents and 4 grandparents. But don’t stop there. You have 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great-grandparents. The number doubles with every generation, so by the time you go back 10 generations, you have (drum roll please!) 1,024 direct ancestors! Amazing!
You are wonderful because you are absolutely unique. Your DNA reflects your uniqueness. No one in the history of the world has ever been exactly like you, nor will there be anyone in the future who will be exactly like you. Even identical twins who share the same genetic makeup aren’t exactly alike. Once that fertilized egg divides into two distinct individuals, the differences begin.
You are wonderful and lucky that once you were conceived, you suffered no fatal trauma in the womb. You were carried to term and you survived the ordeal of birth. But you came into this world almost totally helpless. You came equipped with only two “skills”: you could suck and you could cry. But you are wonderful and lucky because you had individuals who cared for you every single day and night. In time you grew into a healthy child and were eventually sent to a place where a group of generous and dedicated adults (called teachers) educated you. The fact that you are able to read this blog is due to some teacher in your past whose name you may have long forgotten. (I haven’t forgotten the name of the teacher who taught me to read: Miss Enniert at James A. Garfield Elementary School, Willoughby Hills, Ohio, circa 1950.)
You are wonderful and lucky because within you (in the words of William O’Malley, SJ) there are “endless, miraculous transformations” taking place—most of which you are unaware of. What transformations? Here are a few:
+ Your heart beats about 70 times per minute. This means that by the time you turn 70, your heart will have beat 2 1/2 billion times.
+ Your body has 35 million digestive glands to process food. Some of your stomach acids are so strong they could dissolve razor blades. So your stomach needs a new lining every three days to guard itself against its own juices.
+ The human body contains 60 trillion cells, all working to keep you whole and alive.
+ You have 52 bones in your feet—which is one-fourth of the total number of bones in your body.
+ Every seven years your skeletal system has completely replaced itself.
But you are wonderful and lucky for even greater reasons. You are not only made by God, you are loved by God. This God knows you intimately and celebrates your uniqueness every moment of every day. As the writer Jan Johnson has said, “God thinks you are a good idea.” This God loves you more than you can even imagine, by creating and sustaining this incredibly beautiful world in which you live. By entering this world in the person of Jesus, whose life and teachings show us the way to true happiness and eternal fulfillment. By sending us the Spirit to continue (with us!) the work of bringing about the Reign of God.
You are wonderful and lucky too because you have people in your life who love you and whom you love… How lucky (and wonderful) can you get?
Let us conclude this reflection with Psalm 139, a lovely psalm that celebrates our uniqueness and God’s great love for us. This version is called “You Carry Me” by Patty Felker:
Are there any facts in this reflection that stood out for you?
Are there other reasons you are wonderful and lucky? Would you like to share any of them with us?
PS: A big thank you for your prayers for last week’s retreat with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I thank the Sisters for their warm hospitality, their attentiveness, and their prayerfulness! It was an inspiration to be with them!
So with some peoples logic in their understanding the Bible and age of the humankind on the Earth, How could this have just started out with Adam and Eve about 6 thousand years ago ? They don’t want to answer that.
Dear Sister Melannie,
Thank you for reminding us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!” I am coming to the end of my teaching career; I’ll be retiring in June of 2017, but I’ll never forget when I was just a college senior, one worried if teaching was the career path. To try to find assurance, I visited the Catholic chapel on campus. Now, what happened next, I’ll admit, may seem a tad strange, but for the first and only time in my life I heard a word from God: “What God has ordained let no man put asunder.” I got from my knees knowing I would be a teacher. I know this sounds pretty extreme, and because of that I’ve told very few (but now I’m telling a lot more than a few!), but they were some of the most wonderful words I’ve ever heard. I count myself a lucky, lucky man!
I like the idea that we are God’s masterpiece.. What a beautiful concept.
Thanks for the reflection Sr. Melannie!
Psalm 139 is my favorite (along with Psalm 27). When I finally grasped how wonderfully I was made by God, everything became very clear. I knew then and know now that all things are possible because of Him.
I appreciate the comments made ahead of me. I felt truly grateful for my parents, grandparents, and having been born healthy, though very small, and my teachers through the years, including Sr. Ruth Patrick, OP and Sr. Ann Liam, OP, who taught me to read, and all my wonderful teachers. I now teach college after a long career at a hospital. I truly have been carried by God and need not fear the future (as I have been doing a bit of lately…)
Thank you for the inspiring music. I thank God every day for my healthy wonderful long life. The numbers that make up our bodies are awesome to think about. It keeps on ticking !! Thank you to my first grade teacher, Sr Mary Virginia and second…Sr Mary Valentine (pronounced val en teen)
Today Reminds me Of those dedicated Ladies SND who taught me eight grades.I don’t remember the names only their love of teaching.Thank GOD for such persons.? are you related to Cleveland TV person. Enjoy this wonderful earth we live on.
I realized once as I prepared a sharing on Hope that my hope is that Creator God is always right here. Carrying me always and not throwing my clay back into the pile but keeps me broken and then remolds me. Or as Peter Meyer sings in” Japanese Bowls” fixes me with gold making me even more beautiful. So this makes me feel wonderful and way more than lucky ,I feel loved.
I know that God has been with me throughout my life, and I thank Him for carrying me through many difficulties. As I approach my 80th year, I give thanks to Him for each day. Whatever fears I have about my children, my grandchildren, my health, my death, I give them all up to Him.
Thank you for a truly memorable reflection. You listing of some of the transformations taking place within us reminds me of a very special book “The Greatest Miracle in the World” by Og Mandino. Og had the talent of including surprises within his books. Within “Greatest Miracle,” Og shares “The God Memorandum” which lists 10 blessings that God has blessed each of us with. His “memo” is addressed to the person (the reader) who believes he is not worth anything because life has dealt him poorly or wrongly. The memo is meant to show the reader how mistaken he/she is. The blessings are the transformations that are taking place in our bodies every day.
To be inspired, I would highly recommend getting a copy of Og’s book and reflect on “God’s Memorandum.”
Thank you for this rendition of Psalm 139. Our hymnal at church includes four other music versions of this beautiful psalm. Your mention of the number of direct ancestors reminded me of the search that I did on ancestry.com a couple years ago. I was able to trace my ancestors back to France by way of Quebec in nine generations for three of my four grandparents. I’m sure the fourth grandparent originated in France, but I couldn’t trace that branch of the family. It was an inspiring exercise that elicited much gratitude on my part.
Thanks for this today! Yes, thankful for my first grade teacher, Sr. Catherine Frances, who did teach me to read and encouraged my life-long love of books.
We ARE beautifully made. I’m a quilter, and when I’m choosing colors and patterns, I often think of the creative work God put into us and the whole world.
Dear Sister Melannie, Thank you for a beautiful reflection that resonated with me on several layers. To begin with, when I find I am beating myself up over something, I am reminded that God indeed molded my life into being and for His sake, to get on with it. You see, I was born premature in 1950, long before heroic medical interventions became protocol. I simply survived because God deemed it so. Everyday invites gratitude, but especially so, on the 17th of this month, when we welcomed another beautiful grandchild into our family. Life is indeed a wondrous gift from our all-loving Father. To conclude, I would like to remember Sisters Corrinne and Elizabeth Ann, who many many years ago opened up the gift of words, expression, reading, and writing for me. Today, our prayers go out to all those living, dead, and wounded veterans, and their families. Thank you for your service. Joanne
Thank you, Sister. There is much to reflect upon, and, to be thankful for.
I haven’t forgotten the teacher who taught me how to read — Mom! (With an assist, to be sure, from Sesame Street.) Mom also taught me how to read a clock (which entailed a very early lesson in multiplying by fives!). And I have a vivid memory of Mom telling me the names of the President and the Vice President (at the time, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew).
And that’s another thing that makes us “wonderfully made”: the capacity for memory. Yes, some memories can be bitter, but what would we do without memory? Prisoners of totalitarian regimes sustain themselves against sometimes unspeakable treatment with memorized sacred texts and poems. It’s said that the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky could recite “reams upon reams” of verse in English and in Russian from memory! It is reliably reported that Beat poet Allen Ginsberg knew Milton’s “Lycidas” by heart. And if pressed to, I could give you a few lines of Dylan Thomas (emoticon)!
So yes, thank heaven for our teachers, for memory, and for the gift of language.
Dear Sr. Melannie
Thank you for this beyond beautiful reflection. We truly are intricately made. I remember drawing the bones of the foot in Art Class at Marymount (now Trinity High School). It was amazing.
Our Good God has His Autograph on everything! I just love your blog!
Enjoy your Summer
My first grade teacher, Sr. Stephen Elizabeth at St. Jerome’s, taught me to read in 1960. She was inventive & enthusiastic & could even fit into our tiny little desks! We loved her.
Scientist have agreed for many years now that the human race began
with one mating pair. You can look this up anywhere; it is now common
knowledge. The exact date is debatable.
After 2+ billion beats, it’s no wonder the human heart doesn’t want to quit pumping even when the rest of the body has failed.
This and all the other amazing facts about me and every other person can be summed up in the biblical concept of God taking great delight in us.
I just turned 70 yesterday. To think that my heart has beat 21/2 billion times is quite overwhelming to me. We are beautifully and wonderfully made! Thank you Sister Melannie, for reminding me, just how important every facet of our body is.
Melanie great refelction….most of the facts are new to me….what it is important as the song says , the promises of Jesus brig us to our creating God..Always creating us
Dear Sister Melannie,
Thank you so much for sharing my song with your audience of Christian followers. What an honor to have “Psalm 139 (You Carry Me)” included in your message “You Are Wonderful and Lucky!”. Your message is truly awe-inspiring. Please keep my catalog of songs on my main website in mind for more of your articles. God bless you, and all who worship our heavenly Father through Christ Jesus!
Patty, I’m so happy to hear from you! The song is lovely! Yes, I will keep your songs in mind for future reflections. Keep inspiring others (like me!) through your music! Gratefully, Sr. Melannie