The crisp fall morning air feels like ice as I breathe it in. My lungs protest the relatively quick change in temperature, but welcome the air nonetheless, breathing out a visible warmth as my children and I wait the morning school bus.
Here in Ohio, leaves are turning shades of yellow, red, orange and brown as the trees begin their glorious work of preparing and letting go. Each year when this happens, I marvel: How can it be that every living thing on this earth is created with such natural wisdom and beauty? How can it be that we humans breathe in and out without even thinking about it, our bodies holding a wisdom and knowledge of their own?
Most faith traditions, including my own Christian faith, affirm the holiness and goodness of our bodies. In the book of Genesis, we are reminded that humans are made in the image of God -- formed out of the stuff of the earth, given breath and life, then named and called beloved. The original Hebrew words are beautifully important: God is named as Yahweh, which some believe is a way of breathing God’s name.
The first human created was called ha’adam, which simply means "earth creature." It is later, when Yahweh/God determines that it is better for the human to share life with another, that a second human is created and gender differences are named (female from male, or ishshah from ish). With this act of creation, companionship and diversity come to be part of what it means to be made in God’s image.
What does the story of creation in the Bible really mean to me? That you are made in the image of God and beloved — yes, you — just as you are. I don’t know you personally, but I know that your belovedness and beauty are divine truths that are not dependent on my judgment. I extend this grace to myself, too, when I need to be reminded that my worth is not wrapped up in my appearance or achievement, nor is it determined by a court or a vote. Each of us, without qualification or exception, reflects the image of God, with inherent wisdom and worth.
Dear ones, you matter. Your worth is never up for debate. You are beloved and beautiful to God, and so is your neighbor, and together we are a glimpse of the fullness of who God is.
So, take a breath today, remembering that you are human, both flawed and divine. Remember that you are created from and called to love, even when it’s complicated and hard. Breathe in, even when the air is sharp and cold, and let your beloved body breathe out a warmth that inspires and brings hope wherever you are. For, when we breathe together, with all of the colorful difference we represent, we can begin to hear God’s still, small voice saying, "it is good."
Rev. Melanie Harrell Delaney is an ordained minister in the Christian Church Disciples of Christ and currently serves as co-director of Bethany Fellows.