For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. --Psalm 139:13-14
How many children do you have?
A million? Billion? Trillion?
He says, “Even more than that!
I have a multitude no one can number—
Ah! And I hold them all in my hand!
Not one is forgotten—I know all about them,
And I supply every need that they have.”
Dear Father in Heaven, How rich you must be,
Providing for such a large, growing family!
He says, “My riches are unending—
Oh Father God, How wise you must be!
To create such a wide variety
Of people with all different personalities.
Is there no end to your creativity?
He says, “Oh no! I only do originals—
Each one priceless, unique;
And each one expressing a unique part of Me.”
The first phrase of the song “He Knows My Name” says, “I have a maker,” which reminds me of the mind-boggling fact that each one of us is formed by the hand of God. That means we can be assured that we have value and are precious simply and for no other reason than the fact that we are created in His image. Isn’t that amazing? We are small, in-process versions of our big creator God. Flowers bloom, waterfalls cascade, cheetahs run fast, and birds fly high; but none of them is made in God’s image—only we are. And not only did He make us, but He also made us with a purpose: to reflect who He is and give Him glory with our lives.
I’ll never forget watching the birth of each of my four children. How can it be that these little eternal beings, made in God’s image, who no one but God had ever met before, just popped out and showed up on planet Earth? To this day I still can’t quite comprehend it.
I remember in particular the birth of my third child, Emmie. The minute she saw daylight, she looked around as if to say, “What’s going on around here? Who are you guys, and what are you talking about?”
Like the rest of us, she will live her God-ordained years on Earth and hopefully fulfill all the works that God has predestined for her (see Eph. 2:10). Then Emmie will go on to live forever in worlds unknown to carry out the mystery of God’s redemptive cosmic plan. Try to get your brain around that one! Oh, and beyond that, try to fathom the It’s a Wonderful Life phenomenon: The lives of everyone Emmie meets and interacts with during her lifetime will be altered and influenced in some way because she showed up on planet Earth that hot August day in 1997.
Another mind-boggling fact about our creator God is that He makes each one of us different. That’s right! The God we worship is so over-the-top creative that He delights in making each of us unique. There are somewhere around 6 billion of His creations on Earth right now, which doesn’t even count all the millions of people who have gone before us—and those who are yet to come. Why does He make each one of us different and unique? Well, it’s not only because He is creative; but it’s also because He is the God of the one lost lamb, the God who took time to visit with social and religious outcasts, the God who had compassion on and healed the blind man. He is the God of the individual! We’re not just a huge mass of human beings; instead, we are each unique and we have been created to be unique expressions of who He is. In fact, I believe that if we took the time to get to know this God in an intimate way instead of just imitating one another, we would become even more unique, more interesting, more fun, more peaceful and more joyful; and we would fulfill our true potential, because He is an infinite God with limitless possibilities to express His wonderful, marvelous, fascinating nature.
All this to say, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Fearfully and wonderfully because we are made in the same image as the most awesome being in the universe—God Himself!
When Charles Sterling Stewart was born on February 25, 1983, it was a beautiful day in central Florida. Everything had gone smoothly with the pregnancy, and there was no reason to think that anything could go wrong. However, during my labor with him, I had a bad, confusing feeling come over me. I remember telling my husband, Sam, “We need to name him Benjamin instead of Charles. Something isn’t right. We must have the wrong name for him.” Sam assured me that Charles Sterling Stewart would be his name. Charlie was born at 9:30 A.M. but was immediately rushed to the pediatric intensive care unit because he was extremely blue in color and his heart was beating very fast. In the small hospital in Winter Haven, Florida, they sent for the pediatrician, who notified a pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Alexander, that he had a baby with a heart condition. Arrangements were made to transport Charlie to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. As it turned out, Charlie was born with a congenital heart defect: transposition of the greater vessels and two large holes in his heart. We were immediately thrown into a world of hospitals, doctors, medical terms, around-the-clock medication, and so on. I am so thankful we decided to stick with the name of Charles; it was significant his entire life. The word to pray for Charlie quickly spread all over the world; we know that God intervened and spared his life. You see, the doctors came to me and told me to hold him for one last time and say good-bye. This baby wasn’t going to live past 24 hours because of the gravity of his heart condition. Charlie did live, and his first open-heart surgery was performed at two months of age. One more open-heart surgery occurred when he was almost three years old. Three other pacemaker-related heart surgeries quickly followed. Through all of the surgeries, procedures and hospital stays, we constantly received word that people were praying for Charlie, especially other children. Parents would tell us over and over that their children would remember to pray for Charlie every day because his name was easy to remember. As Charlie grew, he came to love his name. He was proud of his name and always introduced himself to others with a grin, almost as though he knew his name was special.
On February 1, 1996, the Lord decided it was time to take Charlie to his eternal home. Although he had many physical struggles, he was doing quite well on that day when he ran down the street, chasing his little dog. He fell to the ground, his heart beating out of control; he died within four minutes as I rushed him to the hospital. Our grief was unbearable, shocking and overwhelming. We immediately flew to El Paso, Texas, because we were living in Guatemala City, Guatemala, at the time, serving as missionaries. Our family gathered around us to help carry us through those first few days as we buried Charlie and parted with him until heaven becomes home for us all. My brother, Tommy, and his wife, Robin, were among the family members who flew in from California. I remember the soothing comfort I received as Tommy played his guitar and sang song after song of worship to the Lord. When I felt I couldn’t even breathe from the overwhelming grief, Tommy would sing worship songs to the Lord and my soul would calm—sweet comfort would come. At Charlie’s home-going celebration, Tommy sang the song “He Knows My Name.” As Tommy sang the first verse, the words belonged to Charlie:
I have a maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in His hands
He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And hears me when I call
Charlie had a maker who formed his heart just like He had a plan for Charlie’s life and carried Charlie in His loving hands throughout his nearly 13 years on Earth.
Although I will never understand why Charlie had to suffer or why many injustices befall innocent children, I am overwhelmed by God’s amazing, redeeming power to take the tragedies and injustices in our lives and turn them into precious, eternal victories. Charlie’s Lunch Ministries began as an expression of the grief I felt. My grief wasn’t for the fact that I didn’t know where Charlie was or even how he was doing but for the empty place in my life here on Earth that had belonged to him. As 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, we are not “to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” But we certainly do grieve. I began feeding hungry children the lunch that I would have prepared for Charlie every day.
Today Lunch Ministries has grown to 12 feeding centers that provide lunch for nearly 1,000 children on a regular basis. Each month, we serve nearly 10,000 meals. We serve Charlie’s lunch.
There will never be another Charlie! One thing my sister didn’t mention was how Charlie loved to give. She found that time and again Charlie had given his lunch away at school. My brother-in-law Sam told me once about a time when he took his kids to the store to buy them candy. By the time they were all back in the car, Charlie’s siblings had their mouths bulging with gum and everything else because Charlie had already given his candy to them.
Charlie was one of those kids who had a smile that just made you love him and at the same time made you want to love everyone else around him. I don’t know how else to say it, but in spite of his defects and imperfections, Charlie was just really good at being Charlie. He wasn’t someone special because he was necessarily more gifted than any other children; but Charlie was, and is to this day, an unbelievable gift to so many because he seemed to somehow let you know that he and everyone around him had great significance simply because they were fearfully and wonderfully made by our most significant God!
Only the creator who touched every fiber of Charlie’s being when he was being formed in my sister’s womb could have given Charlie that heavenly touch of self-worth and selfless love that we all long for.
There have been many times that I have sensed the hand of God touching my life. It is an experience like no other. I remember when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. It was certainly a breathtaking experience; but when I was standing there, a lady came and stood beside me and remarked, “Can’t you just feel the positive energy?” As she continued to talk to me, I began to discover that she wasn’t a Christ-follower. I thought, She’s searching for that heavenly touch just like I am, but there’s a big difference. God comes close to sinful people like her and like me not through nature or energy forces but through the blood of His Son, Jesus, and the gift of His Holy Spirit.
The most primal, instinctual part of who we are as human beings searches the earth for that touch. People do crazy, destructive things to try and find it, but what they’re really looking for is the touch from the hand that formed their heart. That’s why the very first time our spirits testify with His Spirit (see John 15:26), there is a certain known but not fully known familiarity with His touch.
I’ll never forget the first time I sensed God’s touch. I was just 11 years old, and a Christian band began to play the old children’s song “Jesus Loves Me.” My parents told me that Jesus loved me, and I knew I was supposed to love Him, but I had never really had a deep sense of His presence. Suddenly, I sensed this God of my family heritage, the God of the Bible and the God of all human history whisper my name. In my spirit, I heard Him say, “Tommy, I love you, and I have a wonderful plan for your life.” I began to weep. I thought, Who? Little ol’ me? You love me and have a plan for my seemingly insignificant life?
I walked away from that meeting and could honestly say, “He touched me!” The good news is, the God who formed me was the first One to touch me. It is in His creative nature to be ever touching and forming new things in my life and in the lives of all who follow Him!
I believe that God says to the Emmies and the Charlies of the world (that’s all of us):
You are My creation, My handiwork, My masterpiece. I’m so proud of what I’ve done. I see Myself in you and talk about who you are to the angels all the time. Humankind is still only just beginning to discover the intricacies of the human body. I carefully put together every fiber of your being to show the world My excellence and My majesty. I’ve put a spirit in you that will live forever and ever. This is something no human mind will ever fully grasp.
Give praise to Me, My daughter, My son, for the wonders I’ve performed in designing your every part. Take care that you do not compare yourself to anyone but Me. That’s right! And I’ll tell you why. It is because I made you just the way I wanted you, and I made you with your own limitless potential, just as I am eternal. Therefore, continually set your sights on the greatness of who I am. Stand tall My child. No other creature in the universe compares to you!