Hand-made Humans

This past Sunday, the lectionary text included the creation narrative from Genesis 1. The church year is entering “common time” now, and over the next few months, the lectionary will be all about Genesis. So it’s the perfect time for me to start reading Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on Genesis.

In her essay about creation, Zornberg notes that humans are made by God’s hands, while the rest of creation is made by His speech:

What does it mean to be created by the hands of God, rather than by His word – (“Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water”)? Man comes to be differently, it seems. Even before God breathes the breath of life into him, the circumstances of his physical making are radically different. (Avivah Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire, 18)

It reminded me of Rainer Maria Rilke’s folktale re-telling of the creation story, “The Tale of God’s Hands.” If you’ve never read Stories of God, I recommend it.

Now, for such states of mind there is nothing so healing as work. And busy as He was with the fabrication of human beings, God quickly regained His happy state of mind. He had the eyes of the angel before Him as mirrors, and in them He took the measure of His own features and slowly and carefully formed, on a ball in his lap, the first face. (Rainer Maria Rilke, Stories of God, 5)

Patrick Steyn, “Muddy Hands” (Photograph available here)

So this week I’m sharing my own reflections on God’s hand-making of humanity…

This God, who makes with voice,
who calls the deep and the mountain into being,
who heralds the crawling small and the roiling sea monster,
this same God
forms humans with His hands.
He is speechless at their making,
until he blesses them.
This God molds them with his muddy, worn fingers
until they are ready to be life-breathed with his ruah,
his blowing wind of being.
And then, mysteriously, they are.
They stand, these humans,
and their hearts pump, slowly at first, sporadic,
until the blood catches up, eyes flutter open,
and there — there — says God, is good.
And he pushes his thumb into the small of their backs,
an image of Him alone,
for them to carry into the world of crawling and roiling,
to set them apart
as Holy, wholly His.
“Be mine,” he whispers to them
(as if preparing a valentine)
when he sets them into space,
“be mine and no other’s.”
And there is a precious moment where they look only to him
before their eyes go wide at the world,
a precious moment never forgotten
by either —
not by Him with mud-stained, tired hands,
not by tall-standing, thumb-printed creatures —
a memory held in deepest spirit being,
until forever unites them again.

Friends, you are indeed the precious handiwork of God, whose name is Majesty. What insights (new or old) do you find in the creation narrative? What does it mean that humanity is created “in God’s image”?



Filed under Lectionary Reflections, Poetry, Theology and Faith

2 responses to “Hand-made Humans

  1. Those hands… yes!
    Create and recreate and never grow tired of proving their love.

    So happy I stopped by!

  2. incredibly poignant. Holy, wholly His. yes and yes. thank you for this gift.

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