The creation story—Adam and Eve—we all know how it goes. A man and woman had a cushy job as caretakers in a beautiful garden, until one day the silly woman noticed the big, red, juicy apples hanging from a particular tree and struck up a conversation with a snake, and ended up getting kicked out of the garden. We’ve heard this story so many times that it’s become trivial, but there is so much we don’t understand about what happened that fateful day.
The owner of the garden had told them they could eat of any tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The other trees also bore lush fruit, all sorts of delicious fruit, but this one was especially appealing. The woman "saw that it was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise." It matches up perfectly with what we learn in the book of First John is "all that it is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life."
Now the serpent was a crafty one, and confused the poor woman with his argument. He misquoted the owner of the garden, and the woman, who knew basically the gist of what the Lord had said, but had not taken Him so seriously that she could actually QUOTE Him word for word, was easily fooled. She became convinced the Lord was trying to hold out on her, to keep her from experiencing all life had to offer. She craved the wisdom the tree offered, and took and ate.
And in that moment, Death became alive, and began its destroying work. On that day, something in Adam and Eve and all creation began to wither and decay. The wonderful fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with the Lord was gone immediately—it had been so wonderful, but so natural they had simply taken it for granted. Now that it was gone, it felt as if their very hearts had been ripped out, and a giant black hole left in the place.
No, Adam and Eve’s bodies didn’t drop to the ground immediately, and lie there dead, like Ananias and Sapphira so many generations later. Their death was far worse, far deeper than a mere passing away of the body. Something far more insidious happened the day that Evil was loosed upon the earth. The thief had been given license to steal, kill, and destroy, and he continues to do so with a vengeance today. The thief has many aliases–Death, Evil, the Father of Lies, the Destroyer. He wreaks his havoc not only on man, but on the creation itself. Thorns began to grow where only flowers had bloomed before; drought and famine and starvation were conceived on that day of infamy. The very ground was cursed. And to this day, creation groans and longs to be delivered from the bondage it came under the day man first sinned. (Romans 8:19-22)
Somehow I have always imagined that Adam and Eve were just a few days into their job as caretakers in the garden when they screwed it all up, for us and everybody else. But the Bible never says that. Maybe they lived for a hundred years in the garden, and enjoyed all God’s riches for all that time. Maybe time didn’t begin to pass until afterwards—they certainly didn’t age while they were in the garden, because aging is simply the power of death working in our bodies. But one day, sometime after being placed in that garden, maybe beholding God face to face on a daily basis, all that was ripped away. What agony did the two of them endure afterwards, knowing what was lost? How was their marriage affected? Did they talk later of the "good old days" or was their loss so hideous it could never be spoken of?
And what did Adam and Eve receive in exchange for all they had given up? They had always had the knowledge of good, but now they had the knowledge of evil, something they have handed down to their children, and their children’s children, to all generations. I am their great-granddaughter, many times removed, and I have a great knowledge of evil. I know all about hatred and murder and jealousy and war and poverty and emaciated starving bodies and slavery and prostitution and pedophilia and incest and drug addiction and a thousand other atrocities too horrid to name. And oh God, how I wish I knew nothing of these things, that we could live in a world that is pure and innocent and like the garden You created.