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?

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