Burying Abel: Living through the Fall

What happened at the Fall? Man sinned, one might say, falling short of the glory of God. At the very least, the question invokes such theologically loaded concepts as the Divine Curse, Original Sin, and the entrance of Death into the world. These terms are often shallow in use and by nature reactionary, giving the sense that the Fall was “unfortunate” or even “regretful”. And, of course, it was unfortunate and regretful, but for people who have been born into and live within the effects of the curse, that’s as far as our sorrow goes. How Awful!, we might say, but life goes on. Yes, for a little while, life goes on, but only a short while.

We’ve never known how far we Fell because we were not there before we dropped. We’ve grown accustomed to death; our culture is marinated in it. We are desensitized to it, unmoved by it, and often entertained by it. We know nothing of thornless ground and sweatless brows. We know only the thistles and weeds by which we toil for our daily bread.

Only two among all of creation know what it is to live in a curse-free world. We talk of them as flat, static side characters in a larger story about ourselves, Adam and Eve were–and are–real humans who feel real, deep human emotions. For Adam and Eve, the Fall was not the beginning of a grand narrative, it was the end of everything. At the Fall, they and the rest of humanity to follow lost everything. Often, we forget the stories of the Fall, Cain and Abel, and Lamech’s vengeance; but for certain Adam and Eve never forgot, and they still have never forgotten.

The Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden

The Days Before the Fall, before the dreadful day of the curse, were perfect. Human beings were in perfect unity with each other, with the rest of Creation, and with God. Work was good, rest came easy and deeply, and there was no knowledge of sin, shame, or nakedness. They spoke to God, not boldly, but as children, not knowing any other way to speak to a Father but in innocence and love.

How often must Adam have spoke to God in gratitude and wonder, for the Garden and his wife. How lovely must it have been to truly experience love at first sight. How satisfying and exciting it must have been to taste the fruit of every tree (save one) for the first time. How many times must Adam have spoken with Eve, exclaiming excitedly, We get to live like this forever! Who knows how many years passed in this perfect state? Maybe a hundred. Still, even a thousand years comes to its end.

How Confused They Must Have Been, that anyone would question their God! Much less a serpent, a lowly animal over which they were given dominion. I imagine that the first lie out of the serpent’s mouth sounded more like a mistake than an evil, for who could lie about such a good God? Still, the serpent pressed on. Who knows how long the process of their erosion from the Truth, or how many long conversations took place by that dreadful tree? How delicious the first bite of forbidden fruit would have been, and how exhilarating the first rush of adrenaline at doing something wrong. Soon, though, the rush ran together with shock as they saw for the first their naked frame in a shameful light. Soon shame and fear took over for excitement and panic crept into their hearts for the first time as they hurriedly threw together what would become clothing.

It Was the First Time God’s Creation Would Hide From Him, but it wouldn’t be the last. The first accusation was not contemplated or calculated, but reactionary, spilling over Adam’s tongue before he know what it was he was saying. Before he knew it, he had sentenced his wife to death in his stead, Take her not me! Eve, heartbroken with abandonment, lashed out with equal reaction.
File:Masaccio - The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden - WGA14181.jpgIn this moment, death, sin, chaos, and pain entered the world. God’s heart broke with the breaking of creation as He banished the ones He loved from the Tree of Life. How great the remorse must have been! Adam and Eve knew, from that moment on, everything had been ruined in one action! One bite, one act of liberation brought entire world to a state of decay! Things would never be the same, and their was no going back. We all know the pain of instant guilt, wishing for a second chance, a mulligan, but none of us know the weight or gravity of a guilt such as this: the weight of the entire world.

How Many Sleepless Nights Must Adam and Eve Have Endured, longing for the cool of the Garden, thinking, it didn’t have to be this way. They wore the skins of animals that Adam probably enjoyed playing with in Eden, animals that he’d named as part of his partnership with God. The smell and texture must have been unbearable, and any warmth it gave him must have been ill received.

How painful the prick of the first thorn as Adam tried to work the ground; I imagine he sat and stared at the blood for a long, long time. Who knew that blood was red, he may have thought, or perhaps he simply fainted at the sight.

The marital tension must have been unbearable. How often did he blame her for taking the first bite? How many times did she cry out that he should have protected her; he was supposed to be her husband. How deep the pain she must have felt at being abandoned by her man when God came calling.

How often Adam must have begged God for a chance to start over, only to hear that it was too late. How painful the first prayers away from the presence of God. Still, their pain was not yet complete.

It Is A Sobering Realization That the First Grave Was Dug By Parents and Not Children. Even more painful, the first death was by murder, even fratricide, as brother rose up against brother in envy. To further Adam’s grief over his sin, the first death was not his own, but that of his son. His heart had broken every time his boys fought–every time the two friends had pushed or yelled–and now one had killed the other. The sin that entered the world through him met its mark in his children. And as he dug the grave, his heart broke over the realization that it was his fault. Had he done his job, had he protected his wife, Abel would still be alive, playing in the Tigris with his best friend and brother, Cain. Still, later his grief would turn to anger, and he would blame Eve for the death of their son.

Adam would live a long, long life, long enough to see Lamech murder in wrath. Adam must have pleaded with his descendants to stop the violence, to cease the carnage, but why would they listen to him when not even he, the first man, could obey God. Countless times Adam must have uttered an apology for what he had done. Countless times his ears must have ached at the phrase, It’s your fault. Maybe others sought to take his life. Maybe he sought to take his own life. Still, for 930 years, he watched the world crumble from being very good to only evil all the time, and all the pain, all the destruction, was his doing. It entered the world through him. And the illness of sin, after nearly a thousand years, took first his hair to gray, slowed his gate, bent his frame, and finally stopped his heart.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. All of the saints all the way back to Adam bear witness to the lives we live, crying out around the throne for God to restore all things to Himself, and I have to think that there are no voices louder than those of Adam and Eve. How long they have waited for the restoration, and how long they have longed to be reunited with their bodies! And as they wait, God has blessed them with an immeasurable gift of grace and mercy.

They Have Seen the Story of God Unfold, blessed to see God be faithful to His promises and patient with His creation from the beginning. How wonderful, to see, from the very beginning, God pursuing His creation with unrelenting passion and zeal! They would have seen the rise and fall of Israel, longing with Abraham for the Day of the Lord. And when that day came, they would have seen the Son of God, Jesus Christ, take the weight of the sin of the world off of Adam’s back and shoulder it himself. How liberating that must have felt! How great the relief of a burden removed! And then, they would see the church take the message of His reconciliation to the rest of the world, undoing the effects of the curse. Still, they look and marvel at the work of God’s hands.

And One Day, All Will Be Made Right, as Jesus consummates His Kingdom and ushers in the Eternal Reign. Adam and Eve will have a very special experience of grace on that day, when the effects of the curse are completely washed away in the glory of the Lamb. All of the effects of Adam’s sin completely destroyed! How deep the shout of joy when Adam sees Christ set right all that he set wrong! When all is returned to peace! Of those who shout for joy, I believe he will shout the loudest.

Till That Day, We Wait With Adam and Eve for the Restoration of All Things. At the Fall, Adam and Eve lost everything. Though we had yet to exist, we lost everything, too. We lost our rightness before God. We lost peace with Him and with each other. Our sin was locked in place, and in this way, we are both criminals and victims in regard with sin. Thorns still pierce our skin, thistles litter the ground, and sweat continues to soak our brow. But we have an advocate with the Father, the Second Adam, who is our mulligan! He is the One who took the place of Adam, of Israel, and of us all! The double cure, He did what was right in God’s eyes and took the judgment as one who did not! He denied the serpent an audience and thwarted sin, death, and all evil that entered the world through the first man, offering life to those who would come to Him. Wonderful is the knowledge that He breaks the power and effects of the curse, bringing all things back to Himself.

With all the saints–with Adam and Eve–we cry out, Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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