When “Death” Became a New Word
Once we caught our breath and our hearts stopped pounding in our ears, the panic seemed to abate, but the fear did not. We even found ourselves looking upon one another with suspicion. It seemed that where I had ever gazed upon Eve with wonder and joy, now I felt a vague disquiet, a form of fear, and just a tinge of revulsion. I did not want to look at her, nor to have her look at me. We found ourselves, for the first time, walking apart from one another, seeking our own sheltering places within the trees where none would see or observe us. And for the very first time I had no idea what she was thinking, and for the very first time things were out of reach – everything was “Not Good” – and for the very first time everything around me paled.
How does that happen?
Everything inside me burned – my own heart and mind became filled with an utterly new word… “dread”.
The day progressed without further incident – other than Eve and I becoming more and more filled with “dread” – and in the late coolness, God entered and walked abroad. The air filled with birdsong and fragrance, and the gentle snuffling and jostling as creatures descended upon Him from far and near. His perambulations always brought such a sense of comfort, joy, effervescence with Him that He was constantly nuzzling, patting, petting, or otherwise caressing one or another of the beasts. Birds played tig with Him, or alighted upon His shoulders, as small furry things scampered about His feet. Everything chattered, buzzed, snuffled, tail-wagged, and buffeted Him lovingly as He passed.
But above all, He came to visit us, His precious children Adam and Eve, and this day we were nowhere to be found. He grew concerned and called out for us.
None can, or could, resist that summons… and so, dread-filled or not… we came forth at His beckoning call.
He could see at once that something was terribly wrong. For one thing, His innocents, His natural born babes, had draped greenery about ourselves. That, and that we would not meet His gaze, we’d not look into His face, His eyes. He had always loved best looking into the eyes. The eyes are unspeakably important windows into the heart and the mind. That we hid our gaze made His heart sink in His breast. We could feel the sorrow, atop all our other misgivings.
As we approached, I volunteered, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
In anguished tone, God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
I was filled with confusion, with shame, with dread. I cast about me for words.
Simply to say “yes” somehow did not seem an option. I needed to have a reason, a rationale, an excuse! I had to have someone, anyone, someone ELSE to blame! “Blame”, that was an entirely new word as well. I cast my darts close by.
I said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
There! It wasn’t MY fault. It was the Woman’s fault! She gave me the fruit to eat. And it was His fault! He gave me the woman! I was an innocent victim in this, not a wrong doer, but wrong was done me! Yes!
Sadly, God then said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
Eve, also so filled with dread that she sought an escape, said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Her answer claimed that it wasn’t her fault, either. She was deceived, misled. The Serpent did the wrong, not her, not us!
Ah, me, the tragedy of it all! We had learned the Serpent’s craft all too quickly and easily. We had learned to speak accurate facts, and paint false pictures, just as he did. We had learned to lie, just as he did. God asked us if we disobeyed Him. We threw up many words to say, “No, no we did not! We are not responsible!” When the simple truth would have been “Yes, yes we did.”
Did we speak any false facts? No. But did we lie? Yes. And, in that precise moment, that kind of lying was nearly the worst thing we could have done. (Worse, of course, would have been to deny our actions all together.)
God then turned to the Serpent and spoke Truth as it now would be. Bringing about our catastrophe would not prove a boon to him, but a burden. His life, his posture, his diet, and his destiny… all had been changed in his cleverness and intrigue. The entire course of the Cosmos would now bend to his very defeat. And so the Serpent was dismissed.
But then, those awful eyes, that pain-filled countenance, turned to us. It was not so much anger that we saw, though we had seen that flash across His features while speaking to the Serpent. We saw anguish, sadness, pain of and in His heart, as He pronounced terrible words into our lives. Some of these were new words, but I could see and hear the “sad” and “alone” word in His voice, though, if anything it seemed not so severe as the torment we were presently experiencing.
Since fleeing into the trees, we had felt a heart-hurt, a kind of aloneness, a kind of darkness and sadness, that we had never before imagined. We were… “separated”… Eve and I… with a barrier, a boundary, of mistrust and fear that we had never conceived of before we ate the fruit. We not only “knew” Good and Evil in a theoretical, cognitive, way… but it seemed to flash through us, as if we could experience all of whatever evil is, as though it were a palpable substance of our being.
There is no way to describe the feeling except to say if you were ever to imagine your very worst nightmare, a sense of hanging hopelessly from a cliff’s edge with no possible rescue, or be lost in the utter emptiness of a Cosmic void, or to be fearful of all that is… even yourself. If you can imagine that, then perhaps you can imagine what those hours were like for us. It was torment beyond words.
Perhaps we came to His beckoning call as much out of a sense that He could grant us relief, despite whatever else He may choose to do with us. Perhaps, in responding to His call, we had discovered the barest inklings of a new word we had never needed until that afternoon… the word “hope”.
He then turned to Eve, saying, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
Somehow, even through these terrible words, I could see the changing threads of destiny here.
But then He turned to me, and spoke further, saying, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I could not comprehend all that He said, but I could see the threads of destiny, of the currents of life flowing differently because of our actions. Mistrust, defiance, to bring into being “Not Good” as real and palpable evil, in this place through our will, our power, our authority… was like having loosed a poisoned stream into a great river, yielding death, dying, pestilence where it touched.
[To be continued…]