When Cells Differentiate

“And just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” – Genesis 9:3

If you watch a time lapse video of a sunflower, you can watch months of growth in just a few moments. It’s beautiful and poignant, to see the tiny seeds take shape, in fast forward. 

You see the seed, the tiny leaves, then stalks, the bigger leaves, more leaves from leaves, and eventually a flower emerges, with petals. The petals change color from green to the bright yellow that give the flower its name. Instant sunflower!

But consider this amazing fact about the sunflower. At the beginning, all the cells are the same.  Later, they grow into different kinds of cells. Some become cells that will become leaves. Others will bring the yellow to the petals. Others will shape the strong stalk. But creation begins with a bunch of identical cells.

Cells differentiate, just like people do.  At the beginning, we’re a bunch of identical cells that differentiate to become different parts of the human body. But along the way, people differentiate. We grow up to look different, to do different things. We might seem like we have nothing to do with each other.

But God’s creation story is like time lapse photography. When you watch the sunflower grow it becomes obvious that no piece is more important than any other. Particularly when the flower dies, only to return to seed and live again.

Human beings all begin alike, as children of God. We differentiate, but the image of God is imprinted upon each cell.


Dear God, between your image in me and my own uniqueness, it all comes from you. For every cell, I give you thanks. Amen. 

16177.jpg About the Author
Lillian Daniel is a United Church of Christ minister and the author of several books, most recently When “Spiritual But Not Religious” is Not Enough.