Adam, where are you?
This is such a scene as no writer could invent. Sure, an all powerful Creator, that’s OK. Paradise is easy to imagine, as is a willful creature who runs away. But what writer (save one who knows this story by intimation or intellect) would send the All-Powerful into Paradise to befriend and then be hurt by his creature? Adam? Where are you?
Grieving for our sins. We are hiding from ourselves.
Many in today’s world – including not a few who would be Christians – see the ensuing dialogue ending this way: YOU ATE THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT! NOW YOU! MUST! DIE! (And the thunder rolls.) This is not what the Church has historically seen here, nor is it what should follow from, “Adam? Where are you?”
The God whose holy name, whose very being is Love, who made us for himself, who desires us to love him and each other fully, needs to be seen as nearly weeping here as he says, “Adam, you’ve eaten that… You’re dying now…” All of salvation history is an undoing of this hurt (even this is not beyond God nor a surprise to him). The Fathers understand this: the Gospel was never plan B. It was always the way love would walk. God’s Love was ready to move. The Gospel was the plan from the beginning, written into the very fabric of a Universe where even atoms release more power when they are broken. And God’s life comes through our brokenness and when we break bread in his name, it is God himself! Jesus looks out over the crowd and sees that we are hungry. In pity He feeds us: this has been the Gospel forever.
We are used to thinking of the words of God here as “curses”: childbearing in pain, sweat of the brow, toil and labour. Submission. But the only curses God gives are against the evil one and the Earth herself. Elsewhere, the Apostle says that all of Creation groans awaiting our redemption. God has hindered (“cursed”) the very fertility of our home, has prevented it from doing its job: giving freely our food. Now we, too, are doing this: raping the world for food and resources as a brute might beat his wife for failing to cook supper on time. Neither Adam nor Eve are cursed in the same way as the Earth and the serpent. We must think different about these things.
God’s punishment, though punishment it is, is never to be seen as merely a cruel gesture of omnipotence offended; as if God were not a Loving Father, but only some days paddle-wielding Authoritarian, upset because the kids are making too much noise during study hall. Since God is exactly our Loving Father, his punishment, whilst awesome in its scope, is also awesome in its magnanimity and intended for our education; an open channel of healing grace if we will but submit in pious humility. The “School of Life” is become exactly that: a path through toil and labor, through pain, submission, and service teaching us our reliance on God; leading us back to the Divine Life that has always been intended for us.
When God does something ups for our healing. These are not “punishments” save in the sense that taking an Alka-seltzer is punishment for having a hangover or having surgery is punishment for having a heart attack. These are not only the natural consequences but they are the remedy. This sweat of our brow, this harvesting, this painful labor, submission, and craving; these are all cures for what ails us. Even death itself, whilst being the last enemy, was the first cure: God did not want us living forever in our sin, getting more and more evil. So everything ends. The hindering of the Earth, the growing of thorns and briars is all for our salvation. All in the way that more advanced students (Creation herself, which has not sinned) must wait while the teacher spends time and needed remedial work with slower students.
What is most insidious in today’s culture is the way that we strive so heartily to find ways around these things that are intended to be our cures. We are like the adicts in the clinic where I work, taking their antibiotics and hiding them in their mouth so that they can snort them later – just because. We will do anything to undo the work God has given us to do for our own saving. Abortion, divorce, medical destruction of human life (by unnatural prolonging or shortening), even the human slavery that brings us tomatoes in winter, these are all attempts to “self medicate” instead of following the Doctor’s orders. We try more and more to be happy the way we are, make do with our mess, anything rather than to take the Bread of Heaven offered us daily. At each away turning instead of becoming more free, we become less human.