Being a "Piece of Work"
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 (Psalm 139:13)
American English is filled with all sorts of idioms that can leave learners of the language more than a little confused. An idiom is a phrase or expression of which the actual meaning is different from the meanings of each word separately.
If we say that someone is "under the weather," for example, most Americans understand that phrase to mean that the person isn't feeling well. A non-American, on the other hand, might wonder why a person would be standing outside "under the weather" and what that has to do with him or her missing work today — unless, of course, it's "raining cats and dogs" which must be a very unusual meteorological storm of airborne house pets that would certainly explain the reason for one's absence. Of course, if one does make it to work, one must "pitch in" and be "on the ball" or "face the music."
You get the idea.
Some idioms are downright confusing, especially when they refer to another person. Take the expression "piece of work." When we refer to someone as a piece of work, it is never a compliment. It's an idiom reserved for a person whose pattern of speech and behavior is worthy of contempt and to whom one should always "give the cold shoulder." If your co-worker is always late, if he often makes inappropriate comments in meetings, if he cheats on his time card and if he is known to be stepping out on his wife, you might say that he is "a piece of work."
Here is Nada Boltz-Weber's understanding of how we are all "good pieces of work."
The psalmist reminds us that God knit us together in our mother's womb, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Of course, I see at least two barriers to really, really believing this. First, there is the fact that as a middle-aged woman, my body seems to be deteriorating right before my eyes. How wonderfully and fearfully made is a body which ages, or grows fat, or develops cancer or no longer produces insulin? The other barrier to believing our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made is that we are literally bombarded by messages that say otherwise. Every billboard we see or commercial we hear tells us (a) your body is bad, and (b) your body can be "perfect" if you buy a certain product. And let there be no mistake, this is a billion-dollar industry.
Yet I wonder if maybe in the Incarnation, God has done nothing less than baptized all human flesh -- baptized it -- not made it into our version of perfect. Perfection as we picture it and as it relates to human bodies is impossible. And perhaps the striving for an impossible perfection is a profound distraction from the way in which we are children born of God. Because as we know, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And even God, when finished creating the physical world including the human form called it good -- not perfect mind you, but good. ... Let us remember that we are born of God and made children of God and have no business calling what God pronounced good anything but good. –Nadia Bolz-Weber, "Sermon on Psalm 139 and the spirituality of having a human body," from the Sarcastic Lutheran blog, January 16, 2012. patheos.com. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
This coming Sunday we will look at Ephesians 2 to continue our discussion of how each one of us is "a piece of work."