Wow, we are disgusted by that woman in the garden. Can you imagine what life would be like without her selfish decisions? It is possible that our world would be untainted by sin. That there would be no death or disease. That woman and man would be perfectly joined. That eternity would be reality right now. We pity that poor woman, and her twisted thoughts. We are ashamed of that miserable woman when she reaches for her desire.
But there is no doubt about it. The consequences for reaching, touching, tasting the forbidden fruit are real. Broken relationships, messy world, turbulent conscience. This was the end of not listening to that simple command of God. “Don’t eat the fruit fo the tree in the midst of the garden for on that day you will surly die.”
We can’t begin to imagine how the man and the woman did not really understand these words. They had nothing to compare it to. There was no other time in history where God’s creatures had an opportunity to consider the works of their hands, as good or evil. There were no previous moral dilemmas where right and wrong were a question. They had no great mentor to show them the way. They had no messed up family member to learn from their mistakes. They had creation. They had His word. They had all the gifts of God. They had each other. They had their self, the likeness of their Creator. Man and woman had everything.
But knowledge of this was impossible. How do you grasp the wholeness of who you are, until you discover that it is lacking? How do you yearn and appreciate right, when you have never been without? How do you thank and praise the one who is to everything through everything, when you didn’t know otherwise?
We look back upon our poor sister in the garden with contempt, as if she knew exactly what she was doing. We bash our heads against the wall when we hear that terrible story over and over. Fruit, desire, touch taste. Our righteous hindsight spins these words into a dirty language of her devilish pleasure. We throw this sickening knowledge at each other, replaying the choice that we have unconsciously been bound to. Anger, shame, ignorance. We really hate that woman in the garden.
Because for all of us, men and women, this little tiny drama is the funnel for everything which hurts today. Pain in childbearing, that woman. Strife with men, that woman. Dying creation, that damned woman. If only she had been stronger. If only she had chosen differently. If only she listened to the voice of her husband. If only she followed the command of the Lord. Then we wouldn’t feel such distress today, right? If she never took and ate, then we shouldn’t have to pay for these unholy consequences.
It was a beautiful day, like any other. Peaceful clear sky and sparkling cool water. Vibrant colors exploding everywhere, purple flowers hidden in-between fresh green sprigs on every hill, just as it was yesterday. Calm and sweet, unchanged and constant. Eternal sunshine, unblemished moonlight. Man and woman were full and whole, complete and together, flesh and spirit and breath and being.
My God, my God, she couldn’t say, before the words were imprinted in her heart. Why have you forsaken me, she wouldn’t cry, before the absence of God was a reality. Her heart knew no such sorrow. Her hand knew no such obedience. Her relationship with God knew nothing, but simply was her life.
Guilty, yes. Consequences, yes. Non-existence and ignorance are not an excuse before the Almighty Creator. Do this not that, had not meant anything until something was done. Taken before there was fear and shame. Eaten before there was confession and repentance. The unknowing girl ate the fruit provided by her gracious Creator, before “deliver me from the evil one” was ever a prayer.
And in a second, God wrote her a different story. The serpent spoke, as God allowed. The words pierced her heart, as God left her alone. The weight of disobedience crushed her being, as God consigned. Of course He could have protected her. Of course He could have preserved her. But that was not the path of His woman.
Here, at the beginning, God removes His hand and lets her reach for knowledge. He steps back from active protection, and the woman continues to receive. He hides His man, He hides His word, He listens for her disobedience. What a strange and confusing God, to let His creatures fail when He could have prevented. What a distant and quiet God to create his great story, and then allow it to disintegrate.
There is no use in asking and wondering why God chooses to do such things. Or why He allows the story to veer in an unlikely direction. Or if he is just or unfair in the ordering of His world. He is the one who makes it all, how inscrutable are His ways. How can we possibly know the mind of the Lord.
And the story must begin somewhere.