In the beginning, God created everything.
And when he was done, he said, “It is good.”
The events to follow: not so good. But that doesn’t make the products of creation any less good.
You know the story.
There was a man, a woman and a garden with an awesome tree in the middle that no one could eat from.
A serpent came along and tempted the woman to defy God’s orders and eat from the tree. She shared with the man, and they became keenly vulnerable. In disappointment, God ousted the two from his garden, condemned the man to a laborious life and cursed the woman with painful childbirth.
As you know, this original sin sets off an entire Old Testament of cause and effect, crime and punishment, choice and penalty. The message, seemingly, is that of a vengeful God, the consequences of sin and, perhaps, the inherent evil of human beings. If that’s all we hear in this story, however, we’ve missed the whole point.
Consider, for a moment, the position of God—the parent, who created a beautiful world and two amazing children whom he gave everything they ever needed. In return, all he asked was that they avoid the fruit of a single tree in a garden of many.
The couple’s inability to hold true to God’s request was not simply a breaking of commandments or taking something God didn’t want them to have. It was a breech of the relationship the creator had aspired to have with mankind.
At times, I see my own son in this story. As a dare-devilish two-year old, he likes to test the limits of his independence. When I pick him up from school each day, he likes to walk on his own, push the handicapped button to open the door himself and make sure that I know how to safely cross the street.
Sometimes, he’ll meander his way up the sidewalk, which parallels an ever-so-busy roadway and even more concerning intersection. I used to run after him, sweat breaking from my brow and accomplishing little more than exhaustion for myself and a healthy game of chase for my son. But my novice parenting skills were quickly groomed for alternate strategies.
“Bye, see ya later,” I now choose to shout after him while walking slowly in the opposite direction. Not always, but most of the time, he comes running swiftly back.
As his parent, I’m the only protector he has. I brought him into this world, and I take great responsibility for making sure he doesn’t have to experience some of the awful things that exist beyond his understanding. While running after him ensures no harm will come, it makes the consequences a game rather than a choice.
My son doesn’t run from me because he is inherently bad or seeks to defy my authority. He’s tasting freedom, seeking to know more about what’s around the corner, even before he is truly ready to experience it on his own. But, much like God’s relationship with Adam and Eve, my ability to protect him diminishes as his knowledge grows.
God might have chosen not to put a tempting tree at the center of his garden. But the alternative, sharing that information from the start, would have broken his heart. The tree was God’s way of sheltering his children, hoping that he could spare them from the contrast to his goodness, over which he had no control.
I, for one, don’t want my son to ever know the evils of the world, but the reality is that it does exist. All I can do is offer choices, help him with the consequences and hope that he will grow up to know what it means to select a path of goodness vs. evil.
What happened to Adam and Eve is scary. But being their parent, creating nothing but goodness and releasing it into a world where evil has the chance to alter that creation, is even scarier.
While God can no longer keep us from that knowledge of good and evil, we all have a choice. If we live our lives in relationship to God, he will do everything possible to sustain us and the world we live in exactly how he created them—good!