Beyond the Garden

This "ancient story" is as contemporary as today's news reports.

The Scripture

Genesis 3:8-15
as retold by Deborah

The evening breeze blew gently through the garden, bringing with it the scent of honeysuckle and lemon blossoms. It had always been the sweetest hour of the day, when God’s presence could be felt in every breath they took. But no longer.

Now the man and his wife hid among the trees, trembling in fear. The leaves they had tied to their waists were becoming brittle and sharp, gouging into their skin and bringing tears to their eyes.

God called to the man, “Yoohoo... Where are you?”

After a long pause the man answered, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid — because I was naked; and so I hid.”

“Who told you that you were naked?” God asked, “Have you eaten fruit from the tree that I told you not to eat?”

“It was the woman!” the man cried out, “The woman whom You gave to be with me;” he pointed at the woman who was weeping beside him, “It was her! She gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then God said to the woman, “What did you do?”

The woman continued to sob, her eyes downcast, “The snake tricked me, and I ate.”

God said to the snake, “Because you did this, you are cursed among all domestic animals and wild creatures; you shall crawl on your belly, your nose in the dust, all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, and you will strike at his heel.”

Photo of a flower

Out of Eden by Deborah Beach Giordano

And So it Begins...

snakeSo that’s the reason things are so bad. He is the cause of all our troubles. It’s the snake’s fault that we’re in this awful mess — and now we’re going to get even with him.

Early in the book of Genesis it begins; the Blame Game: “Don’t look at me, I didn’t do it.... It was somebody else!” Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the snake, God scolds the snake, and everybody ends up angry with everybody else. The snake goes off in a huff, determined to bite every human he meets, Eve will teach her children to kill every snake they see, and Adam and Eve get booted out of the Garden.

And although the first couple appear to make peace with one another, this early experience makes us wonder. Will it ever be possible for Eve to fully trust Adam, or will “the woman” always be blamed for man’s misdeeds?

Whose Fault?

What a disaster! In less than a day’s time their world changed from a perfect paradise into a thorn- and thistle-filled wilderness. With the advantage of hindsight Adam and Eve would have at last understood that fruit, no matter how tasty, was no substitute for the loss of the safe and peaceful garden.

appleThey must have been confused, upset and, perhaps, outraged. It just doesn’t seem fair that they would suffer this terrible punishment when all they’d done was .... what? Taken a couple of bites from an apple? Eaten some fruit off of a tree that should never have been there in the first place?

They must have wondered what the Creator was thinking to plant that evil thing in the garden if they weren’t supposed to touch it. They may have even come to believe that their miserable situation was God’s fault.

It’s Just a Story

But perhaps we shouldn’t get too carried away with our analysis. After all, it’s just an “origin story”: a charming tale devised to explain humanity’s seemingly inborn fear of snakes. There isn’t any magic fruit that can produce instant wisdom, no flame-wielding angel guards a hidden gate, reptiles do not discuss theology.

The whole business about Adam and Eve’s banishment from an earthly paradise is a story for children; it is an amusing piece of ancient fiction, nothing more. We shouldn’t take any of it seriously.

But I wonder. Perhaps there’s more there than we may think.

Here Comes Trouble!

Paradise LostWhile the trouble in the Garden may have begun with the eating of the apple, the situation quickly escalates when God comes on the scene. Everybody scampers into the underbrush; heads down, motionless, barely breathing: “Shhhh, maybe He won’t know we’re here!”

To me this is a pretty clear indication that whatever the first couple ate, it wasn’t the fruit of wisdom; because their response to the Giver of Life and the Architect of their glorious home is fear. There is no evidence that they have any cause to be afraid. God has always been very good to them.

Moreover, they seem to believe they can hide from their Creator.

When the trio finally emerges from the shrubbery, nobody will admit having a part in what has happened. “It was her!” “You put her here!” “It’s the snake’s fault!” You’d be forgiven for thinking this was about the origin of human hands, since finger-pointing figures so largely in the story.

And I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the man had simply said, “I’ve done wrong, holy God, and I am very sorry.” Perhaps the whole world would have been different.

And So it Goes....

The tale of our exile from Eden is about much more than hereditary herpetophobia. It describes with remarkable accuracy the human impulse to shift blame, to hide our failings, and to deny responsibility when things go wrong.

finger pointingThis same story plays out over and over and over again — and continues unabated to this very day. We see it in the rush to accuse, to blame, to harsh judgment and condemnation in every aspect of our culture; in celebrity divorces, children’s welfare, crime, poverty, war, gas prices, the economy and in politics. If life isn’t perfect, it’s someone else’s fault.

There is no joy in messing up, it’s hard to admit our mistakes, none of us are proud of the times we’ve been selfish, thoughtless, unkind and downright mean. It seems easier to deny our complicity; we will always be tempted to avoid admitting that we have a share in what has gone wrong. But as our first parents found out, that kind of conduct can have nasty consequences.

Focus on the Other

angry crowdAs soon as we slip into denial, we are at risk of joining in with those who refuse to confess their shortcomings, preferring instead to point their fingers at those with whom they disagree. This is not surprising; after all, it’s far and away easier than looking within: the stones we throw at others are always much lighter than the sins we ourselves bear.

In the community of Us-Versus-Them we are led further and further away from self-reflection, further from our brothers and sisters, further into the darkness. In the depth of the abyss, the world turns upside down. Criticism overrules compassion, vengeance poses as justice, hate masquerades as love, and the Source of All Division reigns in the place of God.

There in the shadows it is harder to see the faces distorted by anger, the bodies writhing with unacknowledged pain, the souls eroded by fear and hate; “It’s someone else’s fault, not ours! They are the ones to blame!” "If only they would do what is right, this world would be heavenly!"

There in the shadows it is easy to stumble; there, far away from the Blessed Light.

The Light of the World

the Light of the World

The light of Christ’s love enables us to see clearly, so we can recognize and admit our faults and failings; not one of us is perfect, not a single living soul is flawless. Yet despite all we have done and all we have left undone, we are sought-after, yearned for, and loved beyond compare.

When we abide in the Light of Christ we will live in sacred communion with all people: forgiving as we have been forgiven, loving as we are loved. There will be no need for a “horrible other,” to condemn so we can feel superior, for all are beloved of God.

Piercing Pain

There will be times when our love of Jesus Christ will bring us pain. It is bearable, well-deserved, and genuinely healing: for it will literally transform us.

When let Christ’s holy Light shine on our lives, we will grow to understand the hurts we have caused, the pains we have inflicted, the damage we have done — through what we have said and done and by what we have failed to say and do. This knowledge will nearly break our hearts for we will also realize that, as the Lord told us, “what you have done to the least of these you do to Me.”

Yet we will not die, nor will our sorrow will turn into despair; for Christ’s redeeming love will give us the courage, the strength and the faith to change. Through Him, we shall become true disciples of the Living God: light-bearers who bring peace, comfort, and blessings to all the world.

Do Not Be Afraid

And I cannot help but wonder what may happen if we simply say, “I’ve done wrong, holy God, and I am very sorry.” It would be a start. Perhaps it would begin to change the way things are into the Way they ought to be. Perhaps we can make the whole world different. After all, with God all things are possible.

Virtual prayers and real-time blessings,

Deborah +

This Week's Suggested Spiritual Exercise

What are the sins and shortcomings that push you away from God?