With all the chaos these last months have brought, reading Genesis 1-2 is a balm. Parts of the Bible can feel rote, familiar, like there’s nothing new to glean – but the Bible’s opening chapters describe pure beauty. Idyllic, pristine, new. There’s something radical about stopping after the first five words: “In the beginning God created.” God was there in the beginning, and He formed this enormous place we’ll never be able to explore fully out of nothing. He spoke, and his command was instantly fulfilled. (I wish this happened when I said something; can you imagine if I could instruct my dishes to wash themselves?!) There’s something refreshing about God declaring everything very good at the end of chapter 1: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) There’s something beautiful about the last verse of Genesis 2, when Adam and Eve were completely vulnerable in front of each other… and shameless.
And then comes Genesis 3. Deception. Rebellion. Desire. Sin. Covering. Shame. Fear.
In a children’s book my daughter loves to read, one of the pictures depicts Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. The color on the page does a lot of the work – the beautiful color of the first few pages is replaced by a washout brown. Eve’s head is in her hands as they depart from God’s beautiful place. Yet, even with that picture, we have a hope found in Genesis 3:15 – God will “put enmity between [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” – the promise of a future way back to Eden, back to a fully restored relationship with our Creator.
Here’s something to notice, though, even though for many this story is so familiar. What an encouragement: even after Adam’s and Eve’s sin, God still went back into the Garden.
He could have sent an angel down. He could have spoken from the sky. He could have killed Adam and Eve instantly, and started again from scratch (clearly that wouldn’t be too hard for him!). But he chose to go down, discipline, curse, and start the long, hard process of redeeming the very good things he made. That’s the God I want to follow. The God who loves, disciplines, reveals to us himself and his holy standard, and draws close to show us the path of life and the fullness of joy.
Whatever else I learn about God, whatever questions I have about him, let me first remember this: before anything else, he comes near. He is holy, blameless, perfect, and calls me to be the same. But all this he does while still drawing near. He came near to Adam and Eve, before they repented, before making an offering and a covering for them in verse 21. Much later, he came near as a little baby, to a world who did not recognize him, so that all who received him may become children of God.
When I am tempted to retreat from others because of their sin against me, let me remember that God drew near to me while I was yet a sinner (Romans 5:8). When I am tempted towards passive aggression, silence as a form of punishment, or hostility to those in my family (whether blood or spiritual), let me first remember that God called out first to Adam, gently, with a question. God initiated a path to reconciliation while Adam hid in shame. Lord, help me to be like you and not my father Adam. Thank you for drawing near, for reconciling, for calling a fallen world back to yourself, our great Creator.