Some years ago I had the awe-full experience of “seeing” my unborn grandchild through the wonder that is an ultrasound scan. While the technician measured the baby’s head, peered into the mouth to check for cleft palate and gently nudged him or her to move so that she could measure leg bones, my eyes adjusted to the shades of grey, streaked and blotched by black and white, that took me into the world of the baby in the womb. But not just any baby, but someone who already was part of my family. The young parents and myself marveled at what we saw. A beating heart, half the size of a man’s thumbnail, fingers and toes, ten of each, minute kidneys, a perfect, miniature spinal cord and, delightfully, a little tongue practicing sucking.
Later, as I drove away, the words of the psalmist floated into my mind: “You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother’s womb. For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders.” (Ps 139: 13-14) Things the psalmist took for granted I was able to watch on the ultrasound screen.
The image of God as a knitter is earthy and homespun. To paraphrase the words of Fran Ferder in her book Your Sexual Self: “Like the slow methodical work of the knitter, God is threading and weaving and looping each strand of this baby- in- progress into a unique person. Each bone, every organ, has been placed in position with care and precision. Now, week by week it will grow and develop until, like the finished wool garment, when this baby is ready to be born, every fiber of its being will have passed through the hands of a knitting God.” Technical manuals call all this reproduction. To the psalmist it was a wonder. Paul, writing to the people of Ephesus, marvelled that each and everyone is “God’s work of art”.
Family genes decided whether my new grandchild would be blue eyed or brown, tall or short, hair straight or curly, black, brown, blonde or red. But this little person we saw on the screen would not just be physically wonderfully made, but have an innerness, a uniqueness, a personality that was all his. We call it soul, that mystery that lies at the core of each one of us and draws us gently but firmly to become the work of art God planned for us to be. This child already gave visible expression to the mystery that is God.
Just as I am not a knitter, neither do I understand the scientific wonder behind the sound waves that gave me a glimpse into the wonder of creation. But in some way now I understood that the innerness, the spirit of this child, was tuned into God, the same God who called him into light and life six months later.
Jack, you are “God’s work of art.”