The Advent Stories Series is an exercise in celebrating this season of waiting through writing fiction.
The following is my entry based off the prompt HOPE.
“What is this that you’ve done?”
The question is posed to me.
And in me.
And through me.
And around me.
He is the very breath that I take in as I try to find the words to offer my answer, as useless as I am aware it will be. There is no room for explanation, only admission, because He is known and He knows. And yet, even with the understanding of this reality, just moments before, I stood at the base of the tree and convinced myself to push away what was known for the promise of what was not.
My fingers play with a fig leaf that hangs loose from the coat of leaves covering my body. I let it drop but I do not raise my eyes. For the first time since my first breath, it feels like vines have taken up residence inside my mind and are strangling the light from my thoughts, dimming truth and understanding.
A question found me at the base of the tree, a question dipped in an opportunity to know what was unknown to me since the beginning: an existence without Him.
Without Him in me.
And through me.
And around me.
An existence where He is not known and I am not known.
An existence without His presence ever-dwelling with creation.
An existence without His oversight: solo-ruling humanity.
Within the promise of insight, I forgot the promise of purpose: Image-bearer. Male and female He created us to reflect Him in the task of stewardship, co-rulers within the space of His cosmic tabernacle.
I forgot and reached up.
I forgot and took hold.
“The serpent’s deception caused me to forget,” a whisper of admission pushes past the lump of shame and guilt residing in my throat, “and I ate.”
And I am known.
And in that space of the known, I am aware of the edges of what once was unknown, an existence without Him, at the corners of the garden imposing itself with a dread-inducing slowness. The fear of this development is greater than my fear of His judgment and my eyes snap from the ground to His face and focus in with panic.
He meets my gaze with the unexpected: forgiveness.
We will not die.
But, just as I am certain we will not die, I am also certain we will not live either. At least, not live in the way we have known living to be.
I glance sideways at Adam. He hasn’t noticed how the edge touches the color of creation and dims the radiance that emanates from within it. His focus is on the words pronounced in judgment over the serpent. With the finality that accompanies those words, he glances my way and I see he thinks we are in the clear, that we will be okay. His optimism fades, though, as he sees the edges of dimness taking over the ground just beyond me.
He swallows hard. Panic has taken up residence in his eyes as well.
I watch as the dimness inches its way up the trunk of the nearby fig tree and out over its leaves, the same leaves we used in a ridiculous attempt to cover ourselves. As the dimness takes the light out from the very last leaf on the longest branch of the tree, His words command my attention once again but I struggle to keep my eyes off of the edge of dimness and on Him. Even as He layers pain and suffering into my role in multiplying life, the words feel other-wordly and the situation incomprehensible. I know the pronouncement over me is important, that it will have a long-lasting impact, but the dimness closing in poses the imminent threat.
He turns to Adam and tells of the struggle that will be between him and the ground. Adam stands silently after the pronouncement is finished, letting the truth of it all settle over him. He glances to the edge of dimness that has picked up speed and is swallowing whole plants at a time before bringing his gaze back to me. There is an acceptance shrouding his countenance as he simply says, “You will be called Eve.”
My spirit meets the renaming as presumption and I feel the friction deeply. The name removes my belonging to Adam and establishes my identity squarely in what I can produce. It feels like both a compliment bestowed and a wall of division erected. I reach out and grab his hand to stabilize the conflict within me but drop it when the usual electric current of connection is not there.
It is then that I see the animal skins fashioned into coverings for Adam and I lying on the ground at our feet. My stomach drops as I see the deep brown and white fur and immediately recognize the animal that once wore it. Blood has been shed to provide covering. The brutality of it, and the necessity of it, feels like another source of friction.
He first clothes Adam and then He turns His attention to me. Gently, tenderly, He wraps me with the covering, holding me at arms length to assess His workmanship. He makes no statement but I can see that He is satisfied.
Fear prickles my spine up into the base of my skull as the vines unwrap from my mind and the light of clarity regains its footing: we can no longer know Him, not the way we have, not in His dwelling place. We seized insight into what we didn’t know and that act has cost us what we did know: intimacy breathing life into the very skin of our being.
I will no longer belong to Adam.
And I will no longer dwell with Adonai.
The finality of that statement elicits a harrowing scream from the depths of my innermost being. I don’t realize I have dropped to the ground until the gravel is digging into my knees and the palms of my hands. Another scream escapes as my new angle gives better sight to the edge swallowing the garden.
Adam drops to wrap his arms around my shoulders, trying to both comfort me and raise me from the ground but I fight him with a newfound strength fueled by anger and anxiety. I scream again as the dimness touches the ground just inches away from my hands.
The weight of my retreat from the edge throws Adam off-balance and he tumbles into the dirt next to me. I scramble to my feet and rush over to Adonai. I throw myself down at His feet on my knees and sob “Please! No!” Even as the words abscond my lips, I know they are futile but I repeat the word “please” with desperation tinging my voice. “Please, don’t turn me away from you.” My body convulses with the weight of exile and I close my eyes against the reality of my next statement: “If I cannot live with You, I will die apart from You.”
The air has become heavier and my lungs burn as I take in breaths quicker than I am used to. The sounds too, have become different, distorted. The light-amplified color is not the only thing the edge has taken. I sit back on my heels and let my arms hang at my side, all energy drained from my body.
The electric current of connection from His hand on the side of my head startles me but I respond with a shake of refusal, closing my eyes even tighter. I am terrified of what will greet me if I open them. But, He doesn’t ask me to. Instead, He whispers into my ear what He spoke over the serpent:
“I’m declaring war between you and the woman. Between your offspring and hers. He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.”
And with that declaration follows a vision of a being who carries both the image of Adonai and His very essence. The Redeemer, the one will restore and make right the world. The one who will push back the edge and make a way to once again dwell in His presence. To once again know as well as be known.
My eyes fly open and I gasp for breath, reaching out to cling to Him but my hands meet nothing and I fall forward, the gravel piercing the softness of my palms once again. As a stabilizing peace covers me, I am aware of the permission to feel deeply the grief that has taken up residence within my soul.
He breathes His special name for me, the one that belongs only to Him, over my being and a strength spreads from the top of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. I rise from the ground and stand before Him.
I stand before Him known.
But even more than that, I stand before Him loved.
His wanted creation.
He takes my hand and places it in Adam’s as the last crevices of the garden are consumed by the edge of dimness. We keep our eyes on Him until all has been consumed and we can no longer see Him.
It is done.
We have been sent out.
I take a step forward, dropping Adam’s hand, but am greeted first by a low growl and then by the figures of the cherubim which have taken up their guard, wielding swords of fire.
I step back slightly out of respect for the spiritual beings, but then I stand still, searching for Him. He is still there, still available to be known, but it feels different. Like how I know Adam’s arm is still under the animal skin, and how I can feel the form of it, but I cannot touch His skin, cannot feel the heat emanating from it. I can still know Adonai on this side of the separation but it will not be the same. At least, not until…
I turn to Adam. “He will come, The Redeemer.”
Adam nods. “Yes.”
“And all will be made right.”
He nods again. “Yes.”
“And Adonai will dwell with us once more.”
Adam sighs, relief settling into his being as he contemplates my words. “Yes.” He holds out his hand. “It’s time for us to go,” he says with resolve.
I place my hand into his and together we venture into what once was unknown.
Hi! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here.
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
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