I was in our garden a couple days ago, pruning. Pruning is satisfying on such a deep level, it feels spiritual. These thoughts jumbled about in the back of my head as I worked: I am guiding a living thing, making a choice for it’s betterment, helping it to thrive by deciding what to preserve and what to remove. As a gardener, I am a steward of life. I have authority over the plants in my garden. One could say I have dominion, and I exercise my dominion gently and for the good of all life in my garden by deciding what stays and what goes. If one were to assign a moral perspective to it, I become a good and just steward of the Earth by knowing what is good and what is evil.
These are the things I learn by gardening.
And that’s when it hit me. What if there is another way to imagine the story of Adam and Eve? What if they were not the first humans, frolicking in the Garden, expected to remain innocent and punished for seizing knowledge? There were other humans when they left, after all. And God charged humankind with dominion over the Earth.
What if Adam and Eve were the first gardeners? What if the purpose of their time in the Garden was to learn how to be stewards of the Earth? And what if the apple was the sign that they had gained enough understanding to nurture a healthy plant to produce good fruit? With sufficient instruction given in the Garden of the Lord, it was time for them to go out into the world and teach.
Imagine them describing the Eden to people who were cold and hungry, seeking to inspire them to take up the studied mantle of dominion. Might the cold and hungry not ask, “Why did you leave such a place?” And what if they then answered, “We had to.”? Any explanation that followed might have fallen on deaf ears, for someone cold and hungry might not readily imagine that somebody would willingly walk away from a plentiful garden, a paradise on earth.
“What do you mean, you had to?”
“We learned what we were supposed to learn, and now we have to go out and teach.”
You had to leave because you were done learning? You had to come out here, where it’s cold and painful and we’re hungry? Sounds to me like you were punished for gaining knowledge.
Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden… always such a compelling story. And such a negative one. And yet, as the immediate precursor to its telling, we have Genesis Chapter 1, verses 27-31:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
What if the story doesn’t mean that God created man of mist and dust and breath, after the seventh day – He had already created them, male and female, in his image, on the sixth day. What if a man and a woman were charged to be of the water (mist) and of the earth (dust) and of the air (breath)? What if they were sent into the Garden to learn HOW to fulfill the divine purpose of man?
The world feels a little different when I think of it this way. Vibrant and loving and full of purpose. As it should be.