Back to the Garden
In the beginning, I learned the story of Adam and Eve, and it was good.
I accepted the tale as it was, handed down to me by faith-filled people who loved and believed.
Since this handing down, I have placed the story in the soil of my thoughts, turning it over again and again with the seasons and reasons of my life.
This story has stayed with me, confused and confounded me, tripped up and teased me. I’ve considered it, forgotten it, denied it, and buried it, dug it up and held it, and now teach and tell it.
I’ve come to know that to truly understand a story, it must be revisited from time to time.
So, come with me now and know what I know. Travel back to the place where good and evil play. A place where we are invited to plant and sow, and sit and ponder the possibility of it all. Gather your seeds and place them purposefully in the mystery that has left us all east of Eden, tilling and toiling on our journey back to the place where once we came...
I remember the first visualization I had of this story, as it flowed from my mother’s lips. I was around six years old. I pictured two naked human beings, a girl and a boy, wandering around in a lush forest-like setting, filled with sun, lakes, and trees. In my mind’s eye, innocent creatures filled the forests and seas. I imagined God, mostly invisible, hovering overhead, darting in and out of light-filled leaves held on majestic trees, and appearing only at leisure and whim with a sometimes possible glimpse of divine presence.
God was the boss, and Adam and Eve the simple servants and caretakers of the land. Not that they had much to do except exist and be. God took care of everything. I was told God was good and loving, so no need to question or comment on this authority, just listen and do what God says. Trust God. Oh, and one more thing...
“You must never eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil that lives in the garden, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”
What’s this now? Do what God says or DIE? Yikes!
Fear struck my insides. My six-year-old brain thought straight away to, right, don’t eat the fruit, got it, not gonna’ do that! Don’t want to die. There were many trees to eat from. No need to eat from THAT tree. Easy enough. My six-year-old mind, body, and spirit were rule followers!
Don’t worry, gratefully I made up for lost time and followed in Eve’s footsteps, and of course, as we all know, it happened! Eve ate the fruit! Ahhhh! Are you kidding? What the heck!?” It was a simple directive, FROM GOD! How could Eve do such a thing?!
And now, because of HER, we are all a sinful people!? Who says?! CRAP! And what the heck Adam? You couldn’t help out here!? Just say no?!
And where did the snake come from? Didn’t God have power over the snake? Did God know this was going to happen? And now they’re banished from heaven!? We’re banished!?
Wait, we could be in heaven right now if it weren’t for these two, and the snake? Uuuuuugg!
I found God to be hard and heartless in this tale. Were they just bad people from now on? Where did they go? Are we bad? Did God still love them? Does God love us?
Why the banishment!? I thought God was forgiving!? Why couldn’t he give us/them a second chance? After all, it wasn’t their fault, was it?
Well, ok, they did know the rule, but they wanted to know stuff. Adam and Eve were tricked! Isn’t God supposed to love and forgive? It was the snake’s fault. They were framed, man!
Soon after all my fear-filled frantic questions, I was banished to the backyard so mom could get dinner ready. She had tired of trying to explain and answer questions she knew would take a lifetime of lessons and learnings to understand. We were done for this day, so go play.
I left shaking my head. My 6-year old take away - don’t screw up or else, and it’s all too late anyway. We are born this way. I can remember rubbing my arms trying to get the sin off. I was not going to have this sin on me! I didn’t eat the fruit! It was just so unfair and unjust in my young mind.
Trust God, eh? Not so much here. He banishes!
So I did what any small child would do, I shook the story out of my mind and clung to the real and present moment where I could hear, see, smell, taste, and touch and move through the now of my moments.
Off to the backyard, I went, under the directive of my boss, Mom. I hopped on the full wooden swing I would share with my sister MC, and swung joyfully with her in the present, clinging to the safe thick ropes we could pull and push to make ourselves go. This was real. My sister was real. I could trust this moment. Here there was no banishment, and I felt relief.
Until I didn’t. For you see, I was a captive audience in this tale. Growing up Catholic I would be a continual witness to this particular story of good and evil while I straddled the in-between. It followed me through my formative years, and I would continually push it away, like peas on a plate that I had no palate for.
No thank you. I could not accept the theme of it being over before it began. The idea of, we’re doomed anyway in this pain filled life. It depressed me and did not jive with the other stories told along-side it (or so I thought). So, stop telling me this story, please! I don’t like it!
It’s interesting though, as I think back. None of my Catholic school teachers seemed to have a passion for this story either, that I can remember. It was just kind of told and not explained well for my taste. Although I was not the most plugged-in student, so maybe there were honest, and well put together lessons and attempts. I don’t remember. It just didn’t click, so my butterfly brain scattered.
Maybe it confounded the teachers too, along with their own directives from established rules and rulers on how to pass down such story and orthodoxy, with all its man-made mandated ways and regulations. Talk about getting lost in translation. This story was doomed to stay stalled and static in the setting of my simple mind for a long time. So I continued to push it further and farther down the rabbit hole, into the dark soil of not understanding.
Then something happened. The story appeared outside my Catholic school teachings and church walls, during a college women’s study course I was taking. It was during this non-religious, rebellious moment I found validation for my irreverent admonishments and denials of this story (amongst other things).
The professor referenced this, fancy fake tale, I remember someone calling it, during commentary in class one day, and its spin of patriarchy and oppression on all women. It was seen as part of a narrative that aided in keeping the woman down. I LOVED this perspective - a new way of considering. Here a choice and chance. Here I could let go of the story altogether. Oh, joy and exaltation!
I did not have to consider it now. IT was false and wrong, and I was right and real!
Praise be! I could finally say Good-bye to the garden of persecution and punishment with no promise of understanding! I didn’t have to think about it, anymore! So, I banished it back to where it came! Ha! I felt drunk with the power to do such a thing. Free at last, free at last!
And so I made it official. I proclaimed this story and I broken up. So-long Adam, So long Eve, So long snake. Goodbye Garden of good and evil! I’m taking my shovel and going home!
My puffed up declaration, however, would deflate from time to time, and I would pray and think things like:
Sorry, God, I love you, but I broke up with this first story of us. I do love your son Jesus still and his stories, and you. Jesus explains it better, and I can feel the love with him - not so much with you in the first story, God. I wonder what Jesus thinks of the Adam and Eve story? Do you think we could get some more clarification here on Earth, God, behind the thick muddy veil in our banished earthly garden? I just don’t get it. It’s too hard. *sigh...Ok? See you in church, though. Don’t be mad, but just no to this story. Thank you and Amen.
Then, later on, after a few monsoon seasons, I got a job teaching first grade at a Catholic school. I was divorced at the time. Due to this relationship status, I had to go before the head of the diocese to get permission to teach in a Catholic school.
I know, I know. The irony. I wish I had known then what I now know about the disgusting behavior in our church. But I didn’t. I told the head of the diocese that there was no problem with me getting this job because technically you all don’t recognize my former marriage because it didn’t happen in the Catholic church, so all I really had to do was go to confession. So there. Pause and stares followed with an, Are we done here? Look on my end.
Anyway, I got the job. And I didn’t go to confession. And, Shhh, don’t tell anyone but I didn’t teach The Garden of Eden story either. I decided to skip the beginning part and move on with the rest. Mostly Jesus stuff. He may have thrown over a few tables in the temple, which I actually love, but he wasn’t going to banish me! And we knew WHY he turned the tables. He was pissed! Wait… Maybe God was pissed too when he made Adam and Eve leave? Does God get pissed off? I don’t know. Damnit, we’re broken up! I’m was not going to think about this story, remember?! It’s too hard, it’s not real, and doesn’t make sense. How can I teach something I don’t get. So I just didn’t.
But the garden would not be denied. The fruit of the vine continued to sprout and crawl its way into my mind, body, and soul, during all the thens in my life: Friendships, marriage, scandal, addiction, misunderstandings, divorce and death, failures, and flying, children, family, work, love, hate, pride, prejudice, perseverance and prayers, forgiveness and grace.
No matter how much I kept plucking, pulling and throwing away the green leafing sprouts of possible understandings, the deep roots of divine wisdom held firm in its soil, always fertilized with the constant breath of spirit that whispered and flowed in and around.
Then, later on, after I married the right person for me and we had two children - I decided to teach CCD to the children in our community. This decision, along with so many prayer filled others, has brought me to where I am now, and I am grateful.
And, the first story shared as a volunteer on a Monday night in our community center, where I sat at a table flooded with fluorescent lights and surrounded by 14-year-olds?
Yup, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Apparently, they didn’t get the memo of our break up. I smiled a crooked smile, put my head down and sat on my fig leaf and listened, and it was good. So good. So I stayed. After this particular evening, I knew I was right where I needed to be. Here it was ok to have doubt and wonderings. Here is was ok to disagree and have a discussion. Here it was ok to sit and ponder and think and let the here and now take on new life as it mixed with sacred ancient text that houses the Holy Spirit.
No one was banished, and all were encouraged to join in the digging and planting for truth and understanding. Here we were invited to do the work.
Now in my gray-haired days, I visit the garden often. Mostly to re-pair fallen pieces of my insides that come apart in the day to day of things. While there, I will weed out notions and false beliefs that we are ever separated from the love of God. I will sit with the tale’s topography and its greenhouse conservatory of ideas, sprinkled with vast earthly experience, and just be and know. And here, I will sow seeds of understanding carried on the breath of spirit while planting them deep into the sacred soil of my re-membered soul.