GREETING DEATH FOR THE FIRST TIME
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Genesis 2:17-18
I remember my first encounter with death as a child. My grandmother died when I was 13. One minute she was there and, as far as I knew, had always been there. The next minute, she was gone. The house was empty. The kitchen was quiet and the smells of her Swedish cooking were no more. The change from her existing to not existing was a physical and emotional ‘thud’ to my gut.
I felt this shift again when my mother died. I was thirty. Yes, I knew she was dying. She had terminal cancer. But even as she grew weaker, I could still bring her flowers, make her coffee, sit on the edge of her bed and talk with her. But one day while visiting, she breathed her last and I looked death in the face. The shift was swift and radical. One moment alive. The next moment dead. One can never quite prepare for death’s finality.
I don’t know if Adam knew what death meant when God warned him and set the only parameter he would have to follow. He could enjoy everything God made and partake of it. But, there was one tree that was forbidden. Should he disobey, there would be instant spiritual death and progressive physical death. As we will see in the unfolding plot line, he and his wife set a disastrous course in motion when they ate the forbidden fruit. The shift they felt immediately was a spiritual one. It was a ‘thud’ to their gut. All they had known was pure love for God and a sense of His presence. There were no barriers between them. But in a moment, the shadows of shame, distrust, fear, embarrassment, and perhaps anger as they felt entitled to what God had forbidden, visited their souls. The landscape of their soul left the state of innocence.
Every person born encounters a moment when the spiritual death of Adam makes itself known. It is the moment when innocence dies. Some are sexually abused and innocence is shattered immediately. For any who grow up in the best of homes, the awareness of spiritual death is more subtle and progressive. Teasing at school, misunderstanding between siblings, angry words spoken by a parent for which there is hopefully an apology; these series of events reveal an imperfect world and bring the gnawing feeling that no one is completely safe and perfectly loved.
The over arching plotline of the Bible is that mankind fell, God sent a redeemer, mankind could be saved from his sin, and the full restoration of Eden would commence in his life. While we may visit the gut-wrenching pangs of physical death, we know it is temporary. Because of Jesus, we are already spiritually alive and will experience the Eden of a new Heaven and new Earth where death will not exist. We will know what it is to be Adam and Eve in the land of perfection. God will give it to us again. He is, at this moment, preparing it as He once did when His Spirit hovered over the face of a dead earth and kissed it to life.
I was made for life, not death. Every parameter and warning you give me is to save me from experiencing the pain of the fall. I get it! Amen