A Hidden Wholeness: Explorations in True Self

Weekly Bible Devotional

“A Hidden Wholeness: Explorations in True Self”

May 7, 2023


Scripture: Psalm 139:1-14

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

Notes on the Text:

Psalm 139 gives us a powerful witness to the power of the soul at a time of great fear. Most of the Psalms were written after the exile experience for the people of ancient Israel. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 587 BCE and most of the people were expelled from their homeland to live in Babylon. When we read Psalm 139 in its context of exile, pain, lament, and doubt, we can see that it is a prayer that mixes lament with a call for help and faithfulness and trust. It is a prayer that acknowledges the challenge and difficulty of living in a world where people violate each other and themselves for the sake of profit and power. Psalm 139 is not separated from all the human illusions about what makes us happy. Yet, in the midst of all of the struggles of life both inward and outward, Psalm 139, gives us an affirmation of the power and value of the soul and our connection to God.

In a book titled Tales of the Hasadim, Martin Buber, an early twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, offered these powerful words our relationship with God:

Where I wander – You!
Where I ponder – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
When I am gladdened – You!
When I am saddened – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You, Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Here are some insights about this psalm from Old Testament Professor Nancy deClaissé-Walford:

“The close relationship between the psalmist and God is not only emphasized in the language of “I” and “thou” in Psalm 139, but also in the repetition of the verbal root yada’ (to know), which occurs seven times (1, 2, 4, 6, 14, and twice in 23). Yada’ is a rich word in biblical Hebrew, covering a whole range of meanings – from simple recognition to intimate sexual relationship. In Genesis 4, we read that Adam ‘knew (yada’) his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain’ (Genesis 4:1). Elsewhere, God tells the people they will ‘know that I am the LORD’ (Ezekiel 6:7, 13). Job adds, in 5:27, ‘See, we have searched this out; it is true. Hear, and know it for yourself.’ Some form of this word occurs sixty times in the Psalter, emphasizing that the concept of ‘knowledge’ is a critical element of meaningful relationship.  We are to know God, just as God knows us. As the psalmist says, ‘It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.’

…In verse 14, ‘fearfully’ is derived from the verbal root yara’. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, the idea of fear is usually connected with the basic human instincts to run, defend, or retaliate. Yet yara’ encompasses a larger meaning of awe, reverent respect, and honor. It appears in the Hebrew Bible as a synonym for ‘love’ (‘ahab, Deuteronomy 10:12); “cling to” (dabaq, Deuteronomy 10:20); and ‘serve’ (‘abad, Deuteronomy 6:13; Joshua 24:14). At its root, the word denotes obedience to the divine will. Thus, a better translation of the word in verse 4 might be ‘reverently.’

Also in verse 14, ‘wonderfully’ comes from the verbal root pala’, which means to be different, striking, remarkable – outside of the power of human comprehension. The word is used repeatedly in the Psalter to describe the acts of God on behalf of humanity (cf. Psalms 9:2; 40:5), particularly God’s actions in the history of the ancient Israelites (cf. Psalms 78:4; 105:5).”

For Reflection:

We are born with all kinds of potential in life and with a spiritual DNA as part of our makeup. Yet somewhere along the way, that potential becomes hidden inside of us. Parker Palmer puts it this way, “We are born with a seed of selfhood that contains the spiritual DNA of our uniqueness–an encoded birthright knowledge of who we are, why we are here, and how we are related to others. We may abandon that knowledge as the years go by, but it never abandons us…We arrive in this world undivided, integral, whole. But sooner or later, we erect a wall between our inner and outer lives, trying to protect what is within us or to deceive the people around us. Only when the pain of our dividedness becomes more than we can bear do most of us embark on an inner journey toward living ‘divided no more.’”

That is why the spiritual journey is so important for us to recover our deep sense of soul, and to know God. One of the great experiences of faith is knowing that God is with us all the time in loving and gentle ways and in all the seasons of our lives and that each of us comes into the world as a unique manifestation of the divine. We are made in the image of God and that reality, no matter how tarnished or hidden it might be, is always there. We live in the illusion that we are separate from God and from others. We sometimes even feel disconnected from ourselves. The main goal of faith is not to make you a moral person or a nicer person, even though these will be the results of faith. Faith is about becoming more aware (knowing in the biblical sense) of our connection to God and to others in the world: Living grounded in our souls and in God’s abiding presence.



by Macrina Wiederkehr

Oh God, you have created me and you know me, take away my fear of being known by you. Widen the doorway of my heart. You, who knit me together in my mother’s womb, continue loving me into new ways of being. Reveal to me the beauty and goodness of my life. Encourage me to focus on my positive qualities so they will have a chance to grow even stronger in the womb of my acceptance. Lay your hand on my heart when I am tempted to nest on the negative pieces of my life. O you who fashioned my life, if the truth be known, it is not you before whom I tremble in fear. I am not nearly so afraid of you knowing me as I am fearful of coming to know myself. Replace my fear with love. Replace my reluctance to love myself with acceptance of your love for me. I am grateful for your knowing presence in my life. May it grow stronger day by day! Amen.

Psalm 139

Paraphrased by Nan Merrill


O my Beloved, You have searched me
and known me!
You know when I sit down and
when I rise up;
You discern my innermost thoughts.
You find me on the journey and
guide my steps;
You know my strengths and
my weaknesses.
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, You have already heard
my heart call.

You encompass me with love where’er
I go,
and Your strength is my shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for me;
it is high: boundless gratitude
is my soul’s response.

Where could I go from your Spirit?
Or how could I flee from
Your Presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in darkness,
You are there!

If I soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts of the sea,
Even there your Hand will lead me,
and your love will embrace me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light around me be night,”
Even darkness is not dark to You,
and the night dazzles as with the sun;
the darkness is as light with You.


You formed my inward being,
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for You are to be reverenced and adored.
Your mysteries fill me with wonder!
More than I know myself do You know me;
my essence was not hidden from You,
when I was being formed in secret,
intricately fashioned from the elements of the Earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance;
in your records were written
every one of them,
the days were numbered for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to me are your creations,

O Blessed One!
How vast the sum of them!

Who could count your innumerable
gifts and blessings?
At all times, You are with me.

O that You would vanquish my fears,

O that ignorance and suffering
would depart from me –
My ego separates me from true
to surrendering myself into
your hands!

Yet are these not the very thorns that
focus my thoughts upon You?
I yearn to come to You in love,
to learn of your mercy and wisdom!

Search me, O my Beloved, and know
my heart!

Try me and discern my thoughts!
Help me to face the darkness within me;
enlighten me, that I might radiate
your Love and Light!

A Hidden Wholeness Series Image

Weekly Bible Devotionals

Written by Pastor Roula Alkhouri


Close to Home: Seeking Sanctuary

A Hidden Wholeness Series Image

A Hidden Wholeness: Creating Circles of Trust

A Hidden Wholeness Series Image

A Hidden Wholeness: Creating Circles of Trust