In Genesis, when Adam and Eve enter the Garden of Pleasantness (Eden) they are in perfection. Nothing is wrong. Everything is provided – which is, of course, the iconography of a garden- an iconography of bounty. They walk with God who asks that they not eat of one tree which is of knowledge. The word used in the Torah for the tree of knowledge is the same used when sex between Adam and Eve is mentioned. So the tree is one which provides not only of head-knowledge but of feeling and intimacy. The placement in the garden of something that Adam and Eve cannot have is a placement by God of desire in human experience. The tree is a thing longed for. The tree is desired. Intimacy is desired; longed for. God’s creation of the planet included not only its elements rolled out as a song, but also the creation of desire and longing. And it seems that God has designed longing to include an underside, a messy element we have come to call sin. We pray in our collects for discernment about “wrong desire.”
When I awoke today, on my 50th birthday, a new friend had placed a card and gift by my door. It was the first thing I saw when I walked Kai, which was the first thing I did on the day I became a half-century old. We walked slowly. Being fifty is exhausting.
The gift was one I had longed for for many years – a book I had coveted. The card showed a kid in the corner of a room in time-out and his though bubble said “It was totally worth it.” It was the perfect card. It was the perfect way to begin this day!
Although it can be hard to face the reality that my birthday always falls on the Feast of the Beheading of St. John The Baptist – the good thing is that my birthday also always falls on the 29th day of the Morning office psalms which designate Psalm 139 to be said. This is the first f the many delicious verses:
“You have searched me Lord, and you know me.”
and the sixth verse….
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me….”
God knows us. God seems to have entered into intimacy with humanity by choice. It is hard to know if God was setting humans up for the wonderful failure of choosing intimacy in the Genesis myth. But I think so. Since knowledge is so wonderful and dangerous at the same time. As is intimacy. As is sex.
At the age of fifty, I have known God and known people and known life and I am so glad of it all. I would not change a thing even though some of it makes my knees go weak to think how sad and frightening it has been at times.
Kai and I are always having fun. We are always getting into mischief and loving on people and playing and running after things and grabbing things off tables to taste them and wagging our tails. We both seem to love life with a great longing for life.
It is ironic that the greatest of God’s creations – longing and desire – are also, as my mother would say “fraught.” But a random patch of bright yellow lichen on a mountain side this morning, and my friendly dog, and a beautiful day in Colorado with my friends is that very “knowledge” with which that proverbial tree was filled in the garden of pleasure. I say “Thank God she grabbed that apple!” Perhaps God feels the same way. Perhaps God wanted our enjoyment of pleasure through longing and desire to be a human choice and so all the more lovely to enjoy. It is a slippery slope. Wrong desire can so damage things. But good, kind ones are so wonderful!
Such knowledge was too wonderful for Adam and Eve. It s too wonderful for us still. And, as my birthday card said today, it is so worth it!