“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:3-5
Inside the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a movingly beautiful statue greets worshipers and visitors alike. Michelangelo fashioned this work, known as the Pieta, from delicate marble, and it depicts Mary holding the crucified body of her son Jesus as she looks tenderly upon him in reverence and love.
The statue is now encased in bulletproof glass, since in 1972 a madman attacked the statue with a hammer, disfiguring Mary’s face and shattering one of her arms. The good creation of Michelangelo suffered harm and its original beauty was marred by the senseless attack intended only to destroy the beauty and wonder of the statue.
When the Bible describes us as humans, it teaches that we are “glorious ruins”: the created beauty of the master sculptor has been marred by sin and brokenness. Sin has taken a hammer to God’s good creation in order to do violence, to vandalize, to damage and to destroy the beauty and glory of God’s handiwork.
At times, we seem so shattered, so broken by what we have done and what has been done to us that the image of God we bear seems so disfigured, so graffitied and cheapened that to talk of growing and flourishing and finding delight in this world can seem a little foreign and maybe even silly. Therefore, we are tempted to live orchestrated lives of hiding, masking, and compensating. We want to regain the glory of being human but can’t quite get rid of all the broken, shattered pieces.
Psalm 8 is welcome and wonderful encouragement for us to grow deep! Deeper than the guilt, shame, brokenness, mess, weariness, and hurt there is something to recover - something more true, more original than sin and shattered dreams. Something worth growing, cultivating, investing time and attention and effort in. Psalm 8 invites us to grow deep into the image of God that sin can crack and shatter but never wipe out altogether. Verses 3-5 of Psalm 8 point us to this beauty of who you are:
The psalmist is contemplating the glory of God’s created order – the moon, the stars, the ordered and designed universe. He feels small and insignificant and hidden in comparison to the expanse and breadth of God’s creation. It prompts him to ask a searching question: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? He is reminded that God has made humanity a little lower than the angels and “crowned him with glory and honor”.
What does this mean for us today?
What would change if you truly believed this today?