Friday, June 29, 2012

Back to Eden, Part 5

     For there was a glimmer of hope.  Not all of her children had given themselves over to wickedness.  There was one strain of righteousness – the line from her son Seth.  Seth, the gift from a loving God to help ease the pain of the son lost to violence.  Seth could not fill the place in her heart reserved for Abel, but he was an answer to her prayers, a revival of her hopes.  In Seth she saw the same heart for God that she had seen in Abel.  The destiny she had seen in Abel’s eyes could now be seen in Seth’s, and that spark was passed down to his descendents.  This was the part of the family known for calling on the name of the Lord.  As Cain’s family became rich and famous for their livestock, tools, and instruments, Seth’s family became – at times scornfully – renowned for their righteous ways.  There was a ray of light in the darkness.  Her pain at seeing so many of her children and children’s children fall into the trapdoor of sin that she herself had opened was matched only by her joy at seeing some of her family make the right choices.  Sin crouched at the door to every man, woman and child’s heart – but each and every one of them had the choice to either let it in or keep it out.  As Eve watched generation after generation of Seth’s family turn their hearts to God amongst the wicked living of the rest of mankind, her hope for the destiny of humanity rose, as did her prayers that somehow her family would be delivered and one day get back to Eden.
            As Eve lay next to Adam, her partner of over 900 years, she pondered all these things.  Eden.  Paradise. Sin. Expulsion.  Survival.  Marriage. Motherhood.  Generational blessings, generational curses.  And, most of all, hope.  Through it all, she still clung to the hope, love and mercy she knew came from the Father.  Surely He would not leave them or forsake them.  He had never abandoned them, not since the moment of creation.  It was them that had wandered away, that had traded away everything for nothing.  But deep down, in that place within her that mirrored the image of God, she knew that even now, He was weaving the threads of time and eternity together to form a Master Plan of rescue and restoration.  That was the hope that kept her going, day in and day out.  There was no point in survival if there was nothing later to live for.  She knew in her heart of hearts that Jehovah still had great things for mankind…she only wondered if she would live long enough to see it…she was so very, very tired, after all…
            As Eve drifted off to sleep, she was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of warmth – a familiar warmth, but one she had not experienced in a long, long time.  It evoked things within her that had gone dormant long ago, and a sheer joy slowly awakened her senses to sensations not felt in centuries.  She opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by a great overpowering light.  Suddenly her body felt a strength it had not felt in ages and ages.  The pain in her hands and knees and bones fell away.  She felt like leading for joy, but she was too overcome with awe at the warmth and light surrounding her, warmth and light that were so overwhelmingly familiar.  Then, in the midst of the light, a man stepped forward.  At first she thought it was Adam, for he was that familiar to her, but in a moment she realized this was no man bound to the earth.  His scarred face shone with lovingkindness, and as He held out a pierced hand to her, his eyes shone with a glory she immediately recognized.  Although she had never seen this man, she knew Him, nonetheless, and with complete joy and peace she took His hand and took her first step into the destiny she had always been meant for.  With one hand He helped her up as the other arm encircled her shoulders. 
            “Welcome home, my love,” said her King, “welcome home at last…”

“Eve? Eve?”
“She’s not waking up!”
“Is she moving?”
“No, she won’t respond at all!  GRANDMOTHER!”
“I think she’s gone.”
“Gone?  But look at her!  She looks so happy!  More alive than she ever has!”
“But she’s not breathing!  I’m telling you, she’s gone!”
“Look at her expression…I’ve never seen her so peaceful…”

Adam leaned down to shut his partner’s old, tired eyes and sighed a sigh of relief and joy.  “I have, my children,” he said with eyes shining.   “I’ve seen her with such an expression.  Many, many years ago.” 

And the mother of mankind found her way back in the arms of her King.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back to Eden, Part 4

     It was dusk when they reached their tent for the evening meal and rest.  One of their many, many great-great-great-great., etc. granddaughters had already prepared their meal. Their bedding had also been prepared, and other nightly things set out. Eve smiled.  What a blessing of the Lord, her family.  So many descendents.  So many children, and grandchildren, and beyond!  She had seen wedding after wedding, birth after birth.  She had been midwife to hundreds, maybe thousands of births, even as she winced with guilt at every moan of pain.  She knew everyone was responsible for their own sin, that her folly had not forced subsequent disobedience – but “great pains in childbirth” had been a part of the curse of the Fall.  She wants to be there for every birth possible and help however she could.  After all, she was the first to discover the wonder and terror of birth…
            One day, she noticed she wasn’t feeling well.  She couldn’t keep her eyes open, and she kept getting sick, again and again.  Pretty soon her belly began…and panic began to set itn. What new disease was this?  Was she going to…die?  She and Adam had no experience with human death, but they had seen it in animals.  Was this finally how it would end, with some odd disease taking out mankind, victims of their own pride and disbelief?
            But then the Lord revealed that no, she wasn’t dying.  Far from it – she was growing new life!  What an experience that first pregnancy was!  Every little ache and pain was a new discovery.  And nothing had prepared her for the joy that came with the quickening, that first time she felt life move within her.  She was overwhelmed that she could partner with the Father in the miracle of bringing new life.  This was something only she and her daughters would experience.  This would be a special connection between women and their Creator. 
            She didn’t know how long it would take, but one day, the pains began.  Wave after wave they came.  Through it all there was some sort of instinct telling her what to do – walk around, sit, breathe, scream.  Adam  had been a wreck.  He was as supportive as he knew how to be, but he couldn’t hide the fear on his face every time she gasped in pain.  As she suffered, he had done what they had learned to do in times of trouble – cried out to the Father.  All at once, at the height of their fear, the presence of the Lord was there, all around them, and a peace fell upon them as the realized something truly miraculous was about to occur. 
            Eve had never had such an appreciation for the curse she had brought down on herself than when the time came to give birth to Cain.  She had never experienced such pain.  She felt herself seemingly rip from end to end, and she thought she would lose consciousness – but then, in a flood of blood and water, he was there.  Cain, the firstborn of all mankind.  A new chapter in human history had begun.  As Eve wrapped him up in a skin and held him to her breast, she cried joyous tears in praise and thanksgiving to God.  In that moment she had the tiniest glimpse of the love God has for His creation and the joy of creating life.
            As miraculous as birth was, it was just as miraculous that Cain survived his childhood!  She was still amazed she hadn’t killed him with all her mistakes.  She had no mother to call on for advice.  There was no expert advice to call on.  She just had to stumble along and figure out how babies worked.  God protected her son over and over again.  In time, another miracle, Able, had been born.  She knew, as she gazed upon her boys, that surely she served a gracious, forgiving God, for no God that wished to punish her forever would have given her this joy that was so beyond her own heart that it could only come from the Divine.
            Too tired now to push away the memoires, Eve winced with pain as she remembered her first two sons.  She had no idea at the time of their births that such immeasurable joy could also bring such immeasurable pain.  The pain of childbirth was a mere pinch when compared with the emotional pain of watching her children grow up at odd with one another, a rivalry that ended in another first: the first human bloodshed.  How had it all gone wrong?  How had two boys, born of the same mother and father, grown up so radically different.  She knew she had made mistakes with Cain.  Maybe she had been too harsh.  Maybe she hadn’t been harsh enough.  Maybe she had overprotected him.  Maybe she had spoiled him as the firstborn or ignored him too much as his siblings came.  She knew, as he had grown older, that his heart wasn’t in the right place, but every effort she made towards him was met with indifference or opposition.  More children were born, and her time became more and more divided, which only gave Cain more opportunity to pull away.  She prayed in desperation as she watched Cain’s heart grow colder.  This was the first time she realized the generational impact of her and Adam’s sin.  Her children and her children’s children would have to contend with great and greater temptations.  The enemy that has preyed upon her weakness in the Garden now preyed upon her children with a greater power, which they had allowed with their own choices.  Now her firstborn was making his own choices, and try as she might, he was slipping further and further away.
            In contrast, his brother Abel seemed content to sit at her feet and learn as much about the Lord as he could.  Abel loved the stories about Eden as much as Cain scorned them.  Eve’s hopes had been high for Abel.  He had eagerly desired to give his best for God.  He made mistakes, he had his faults – after all, they’d left perfection back in the Garden – but the difference between him and his brother was that where Cain feigned indifference, Abel desired repentance.  He learned how to communicate with God, seek God’s face, and discover from God what was expected of him.  As the family grew, Abel also sought to teach his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all he had learned about God.
            Eve had watched the relationship between these two very different men grow from simple sibling rivalry to a division of jealousy and hatred.  Cain soon wouldn’t stay in the same place as Abel, so blinding was his jealousy and anger. Eve knew one day there would be a reckoning, but she had no idea how bad it would be.
            She knew of the sacrifices.  Abel had told her, in one of the last conversations she’d ever had with him.  She knew Abel had chosen the best portions of his flock to offer up to the Lord while Cain  had just picked what was convenient for him to give up from his crop.  She knew of the Lord’s favor on Abel’s sacrifice and His displeasure with Cain’s.  She also knew of Cain’s rage.  All one had to do was look at his face to know something was very, very wrong,.
            She knew, too, of the admonition to Cain that he must master the sin creeping into his life or it would overtake him…but not until after, when Cain had to come explain to his parents why he was being driven away.  That was the day in her life that has been closest to the pain of losing what they’d had in the garden.   She had not felt such anguish since leaving, not since those first awful days.  Her son, Abel, dead at the hand of his own brother.  Her oldest son, Cain, driven from their land and from the heart of God, all of his own choosing. She lost two sons that day.  One to a bloody, terrible, new cruelty in the world: murder.  The other a victim of his own choices, pride, and anger.
            She never saw Cain again.  That day he’d packed up his wife, children, belongings and gone out into the world.  The last memory she had of him was the look of wounded rage in his eyes masking his fear.  That, and the mark upon his forehead.  The mark would keep him physically safe from harm, but it would also mark him to all who met him as one who displeased the Lord.  Eve knew Cain was strong and would prove to be a powerful leader.  He would survive.  Indeed, in time, word began to get back to them that he had built himself a nation and founded a new people group.  But the generational sins of murder and arrogance had taken root, and Cain’s tribes became known for their violence and strife.  One of Cain’s descendents, Lamech, had famously declared his bloody vengeance upon another man.  Blood and violence became bywords for Cain’s people.
            The cancer of sin seemed to spread throughout mankind, and not only in Cain’s family.  Eve shuddered as she thought of some of the stories coming back to her about the unholy activities of her own flesh and blood.  As man began to increase on the earth, so did their sin.  She could now clearly see how much the enemy hated as beloved creatures of God and how much he sought to destroy mankind.  Debauchery, wickedness, and evil ran rampant through the hearts of man.  Eve wondered just how long it count continue on this way.  She could not imagine that God would tolerate such flagrant disobedience.  How was it to end?  Would they all be wiped out?  Or would the God of mercy offer a thread of grace and redemption?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Back to Eden , Part 3

     Eve opened her eyes at the sound of someone approaching.  She raised her head to see an old man wobbling towards her, cane in hand.  She smiled as Adam came to her and held out his hand to lift her from the ground.  This was the same hand she had held for generations.  This was the only other person on earth that understood that other life.  They had walked together as they broke every new barrier there was to break.  Everything they had done in their entire life had been a new discovery.  Even now, they were still testing new limits.  Just how long did they have?  How long could a man last?  They were familiar with death.  They had seen it time and time again, but it was always from disease or childbirth or an accident.  No one had ever just hit their age limit and died.  No one knew if there even was a limit.  If nothing interfered, would they continue to live until the end of the world?  For surely there was an end.  Surely the Father would provide a path back to Eden.  She felt it as surely as she felt anything.  He would not abandon them.  He would remain faithful where they had been faithless – although they deserved far, far less.
            Leaning into her lifelong partner’s side she walked back to her tent.  How she adored this man.  They had been through so much, and yet here he still was, leading the way.  She smiled as she remembered their first days together…
            He was so young then.  Ageless, really, for the passing of time had no meaning in that place, not like in did here.  Strength poured from him in those days.  He was so confident and purposeful, having been created as the crowning glory of creation, to rule over everything else.  Eve had loved him from the first.  It was true that she had known no different, but what did that matter? One of her granddaughters had asked her once if she felt cheated because she had never had any choice but Adam.  Cheated?  Because she “had” to spend her life with the one the Father had intended just for her? Never!  And why did one need options when one had what was perfectly right?  She and Adam had literally been made for each other, and their love was meant to be a reflection of the Father’s love for them.  Why look anywhere else?
            Not that it had always been easy.  Nine centuries together had brought its share of hardship.  Birth, death, hunger, thirst, greed, selfishness, and most of all, fear, had invaded their lives and wreaked havoc over the years.  The fear had been the worst.  The introduction of fear into their lives had been the worst part of the Fall.  She remembered the first time she had sensed fear – that knawing sensation in her stomach, unlike anything she had ever known.   It was that fear and sham e that nearly drove her and Adam apart in those first few weeks out of Eden.
            That first day on the outside was the worst she had ever experienced.  It was like having a limb ripped off her body.  One moment she had been in the very midst of perfection.  The next moment she was in the middle of seeming nothingness.  There were plants, but they were mere shadows of the lush vegetation she had known.  Animals roamed, but they didn’t seem to have the same vibrant life she was used to seeing – and instead of trusting her and Adam, they ran from them or bared their teeth and attached in defense.  The ground was hard, not workable like the ground of Eden.  Within her new animal skins, Eve had shivered and shivered – for the first time she felt the sensation she came to know as “cold.”  As time wore on, she would experience both extreme cold and extreme heat.  Nothing at all like the perfect climate of Eden. 
            Her new animal skins.  Eve shuddered at the memory of the first blood she’d ever seen shed.  They needed something to shield themselves from the new extremes of this horrible place; as well, there was also a need, as God explained, for blood to be shed as a result of their rebellion.  That was the way it worked – sin required the shedding of blood.  Eve would never forget the stench of that first dead animal…and the horror of realizing that creation could perish.  Eden had not known death.
            For the first few days, Adam and Eve had been too stunned, too numb in their grief to really communicate with each other.  They were also too desperate for survival.  Instead of the plants readily giving full and mouth-watering provision, the food was dull-tasting and hard.  Eve refused to eat it at first until finally she got so hungry it wasn’t possible to go without any longer.  Although the eventually learned how to prepare food so it was more enjoyable, Eve never really enjoyed eating again.  Nothing could wipe away the memory of what food was supposed to taste like.
            Even though they had heard the curse, they were not prepared for how difficult it would be to survive.   They discovered that not everything was edible.  Some things were rotted – like everything else in this accursed place, the plants died – and some caused great sickness.  The first time they became sick was an awful experience.  The discovery that their physical bodies could suffer so much was shocking.  They had to learn how to work the hard soil, how to coax food out of the vegetation of the earth.  They learned how to kill animals for meat and clothing.  They learned how to erect dwellings to protect against the heat and the cold…and the wind.  Oh, the wind!  It was nothing like the gentle, cleansing breeze of Eden.  No, this was a harsh, destructive wind that blew away their provisions and knocked over their homes.
            Yes, life had suddenly become radically, horrifically different.  And their relationship had suffered for it.  After the initial shock of their new surroundings came the anger.  They had never experienced anger before, and the sheer force of the emotion nearly ripped them apart.  Adam was the first to lay blame, accusing Eve of listening to that damn serpent.  Why did she have to be like God anyway?  They knew better.  She knew better.  How could she have exposed them to such ugliness?  Why oh why had she sought more than she had been given?  Eve retorted that he had been standing right there – why hadn’t he spoken up?  Why hadn’t he tried to stop her?  One word from him would have stopped her hand.  But no, he had just stood there, silently giving his permission…and then he had sealed his approval by partaking himself.  How dare he accuse her! 
            And so on and on it went.  Anger turned into another new experience – bitterness.  They went weeks without speaking to one another.  Eve would cry herself to sleep every night – lamenting the life she had traded for nothing, yes, but also pouring out the brokenness of her heart over the loss of the man she was created for.  Those were lonely, endless nights.  It was unbearable, facing the darkness of this new world alone. Even cried out to the God she knew must be there, somewhere –surely He hadn’t left them altogether?  She couldn’t bear the thought of having lost both her lovers forever. 
            Bitterness gave way to apathy, apathy to complacency, until finally, one day, Adam approached Eve.  He asked her to put down her work and sit down with him.  Then, in short, stilted words, he began to explain all that he had been feeling – the anger, the bitterness, and the loneliness.  He, too, had spent too many nights in anguish.  But God had reached out to him and shaken  him out of his bitterness to see that she had been hurting just as much and that there was hope – if he, Adam, would lay down his pride and anger and take the lead.  Then in a choked up voice that soon turned into a flood of words and tears, he said he was sorry.  He was sorry for not being there, sorry for not speaking up, sorry for not defending her from the evil that had wooed her away.  His confession brought a flood of tears and apologies from her as well, and suddenly they were in each other’s arms.  For the first time since The Fall, they cried together over their fate, and as they forgave one another, they had a strange sensation come over them.  They knew, at that moment, that the Father was still with them.  He spoke to them – not in the same way He had before, but still He spoke – and they knew that though they had given up the privilege of seeing and touching God, He had not given up on them, and He never would.  The healing had begun.  Together, they built an altar and made a sacrifice to God, and then hand in hand with each other, armed with the knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness in their hearts, they began their new lives in a new world.  No, they would not get to go back to Eden, at least not in this life.  But God had not created them and brought them this far to abandon them now. 
            As Eve walked on the arm of the one who had walked her through so much, she thought of their lives over the years.  Together, they’d forged a new life in a desolate world.  They had learned to tame animals that had once come to their beck and call, figured out what plants could be eaten and which could not, learned about clothing, shelter, all they needed for survival – while all the time being led and taught by their Father.  They longed for that personal place they had once had at His side, but something told them that this separation would not be forever.  They had often lain awake at night, discussing this sense they had, that they were living towards something, that there was this hope in the depths of their corrupted hearts, that this dark place was not their final destination.  They had learned a little about God’s character in the near-millennia of their lives – although the more they learned, the more they realized they could never hope to fully, as the serpent had tempted them, “be like God.” The Father was far beyond their limited understanding.  Yet over time they had come to recognize His grace in their lives.  He could have let them wander the earth after their sin.  He could have killed them outright.  It was no more than they deserved.  Instead, in His grace, He had killed for them, made them clothes, and shown them how to survive.  In time, they even began to see the grace in their banishment, for He had kept them from eating of the Tree of Life and live forever in their sin.  Such a God of grace would surely not forsake them forever.  They knew, somewhere deep down, that this was not all there was.  There was more for them and their descendants.  God has created them for His own pleasure, and even now, they knew He was making plans to set things right again.  They may not see it in their lifetime, but they would see it in eternity.  God would make a way back to Eden.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back to Eden, Part 2

She had no memory of the beginning.  Not really.  All she knew is that she simply was.  There, suddenly, next to the sleeping creature she came to know as Adam – her beloved, her husband.  She hadn’t known till later how it had happened, that the Lord had fashioned her from Adam’s rib.  She remembered opening her eyes and stretching her limbs for the first time.  She was inspecting what she came to know later as “hands” when the sleeping creature – “man” – woke up beside her.  They looked at one another in wonder for a long time.  Then, the next things they knew, He was there with them, explaining it all.  She had been fashioned from Adam’s side – “bone of my bone,” as Adam summarized it.
            Oh, those days in the garden.  There was no way to describe it.  She and Adam had tried to put words to it, to pass down some sense of that life to the generations that came after them.  That was the life all were meant to live, but only she and Adam had been able to experience it firsthand.  Everything was so vivid and alive in that place.  Colors were brighter, fragrances stronger, the sensations of warmth and softness and comfort much more than anyone had every experienced since.  That place was LIFE – life the way the Father had always intended it.  Animals came at their beck and call.  The lion lay down with the lamb.  Nights were not the cold, desolate times they were in this realm, but a soft, quiet, sleepy version of the vibrant day.  And the ease of it all!  Oh, there was work to be sure, but it was fulfilling work that brought strength, not drained it.  She and Adam tended the garden together, cared for the animals, leapt among the flowers and the grass, danced with beams of sunlight.  But beyond all that, all the sensation and joy and life around them, was the relationship they had had with the Father.
            To have the constant presence of the Lord was beyond what could be described in mere words.  To “walk” with Him, be in His glorious light, have access to Him all the time.  To see Him first thing in the morning and walk with Him in the cool of the evening.  To dance to the music of the garden with the King of Kings, knowing that it was all created by Him for you!  There was no joy like this.  Nothing like it had ever been experienced since then – no form of worship in this realm could come close to comparing to the life of constant worship in that place.
            Eve had no idea how long they had lived there.  Time had very little meaning in those days.  The hours went by, day into night, night into day.  When they tired, they slept.  When they were hungry, they ate.  They cared for the land in those days, not worked it as they did now.  And every seven days, they spent the hours basking in the glory of God.  Nothing could describe the life they had lived in that place, and nine centuries had not dulled the ache in Eve’s heart to go back.  She knew for what she had been created, and every fiber of her being yearned to be back there.