In the Secret Places

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

By Jaime Sherman

As early as eight weeks after conception, a baby’s senses awaken within the womb when her touch receptors begin to develop in her lips and nose before coming alive throughout her entire body. Eventually, she can see light and various colors pass through her mama’s skin, can taste and smell her mama’s recent meal choices, and can hear the cacophony outside the protective walls of her hidden, embryonic home. In that secret, dark place, which the psalmist describes poetically as the depths of the earth, God forms her into an image of Himself and provides her with an undisputed, beautiful identity as a child of God.

In that safe place, He gives her a name and a purpose for a set number of days, saying she is precious, honored, loved, and protected by Him. Then, when He ordains, she leaves the confines of her mother’s womb and begins to grow in a world touched by humanity’s sinful choices, a world full of voices that warp God’s original design and desire for her. At some point, she will wrestle with the age-old question that screams at each of us: Who am I?

Her identity was sealed from the first beat of her heart in that secret place inside her mama, and yet, God allowed it to be partially hidden so that one day she could uncover it as her own. If she is not taught the truths about God’s creation, about sin, and about redemption found in Jesus Christ, she will be a treasure hunter with the wrong map, seeking direction from a crowd with opinions as variegated as a summer sunset about the identity she should embrace. She won’t find her true identity in the chaos of this world, a mirror or the eye of a camera, a social media feed or billboard, a self-help book or google search, an education or a career, her family of origin or friends, or a religious system or social status.

No, she must find her identity in the quiet places with the One who created her. She must return to the Word of God to hear the voice of God that will affirm who she was created to be, for while God allows His people to plant seeds of truth in the people around them, an identity shaped by mankind will crumble like a house built on sand. But the very words of God and the nudging of His Spirit can lead each woman to the answer of Who am I?

I encourage you to schedule a time before summer’s end to set aside the distractions of your life — including any technology that tethers you to a world of chaos and differing opinions — and be quiet with the Lord in your own secret place. This exercise will look different for each one of us. For some it may mean an overnight, solitary retreat to walk and to talk with the Lord, while for others it may mean finding a park bench for a short time to open God’s Word and be reminded of identity rooted in Him. Provided below are some starting points on your map as you seek the treasure He formed in you within your mama’s womb.

Start at the beginning of the Bible, where “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them…and God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:27, 31). Keep reading in Genesis. You’ll see how sin and its byproduct (mankind’s insecurities about identity) enter the storyline and God’s “very good” creation turns imperfect. As God curses the tempting, lying serpent, He indicates that He will send Someone to right the wrongs and restore man’s relationship with Him (Genesis 3:15)

Turn to Isaiah 53 and read about the suffering Servant, who would come to earth many generations later. Jesus, God’s only Son, was the only sinless man to live, the perfect image of God for us to imitate in our daily lives. He was the One who covered the cracks in our image with His atoning blood, so we could be renewed after the image of the Creator (Colossians 3:10). This account can be found throughout the Bible, especially in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

In John 1:12-13 and I John 3:1-2, you will read that you are the beloved, adopted into God’s family with all the rights and privileges of His children. These themes of belonging and belovedness are affirmed in Isaiah 43:1-7 and 49:15-16 and again in Jude 1. God’s children are called, beloved, and kept. Similar language is used in Psalm 139. In this song, we see an intimate connection between the psalmist David and the Creator God that was formed by Him in secret and then guided and protected by Him. In verses 19-22, David addresses the sin that gets in the way of a perfect relationship with God, the sin that God never meant to define him, and in the final two verses of the psalm, David calls out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” These are not words for a listening world but come from a man aware of his need for a Savior to the God who provided the Way and who promised to never leave His children alone. 

May these verses remind you — or help you discover for the first time — how God sees Himself in you and how He has given you an undisputed, beautiful identity as His child.