Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You1 shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,2 she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LordGod called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”4 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring5 and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for6 your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
nin pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.7 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
I have sat with many people who try and explain why their marriage has failed. The story is gut wrenching, no matter who tells it, because it is so close to all of us who are married. If one person decides that the marriage is over it is over. One person can decide it is over for many reasons. One person experiences pain or alienation. The husband lacks passion because he is depressed. He had passion when they dated, but now his love-making seems disinterested or routine. The isolation becomes unbearable and despite his efforts to show more passion, it is decided that it is too late in the game and she leaves him. A husband might feel dominated, ordered around and that his love of life is slipping away. The constant correction, humiliation, and anger of his wife whittles away at his reserves and he decides he is better off regaining his independence. A woman pressured by life loses her grip on her faculties and her paranoia and pain take her to places that her husband can not follow. Having decided that he can not reach her any more he cuts himself loose and creates a new life. A couple seems to have a functioning and warm relationship, but then disaster strikes and they lose a child, or they can not have children, or they become bankrupt. Unable to process the disappointment and grief together they walk away.
Each heart knows its own pain. The shame and the guilt, the isolation and the inability to be love and be loved go way back. The system is broken and we too are products of that system. If we drift we tend to disconnect and destroy. Some marriages dissolve but others create ‘divorce within marriage.’ In those cases the couple stays together but they live different lives or hidden lives. In some cases a dominant spouse has a clear idea of the way that the marriage should be. He or she decides the priority of the tasks and communicates the agenda with the compliant one. One spouse is hidden behind control and the other spouse is hidden behind compliance. If the controlling spouse relinquished control they would feel exposed or weak and so when their control is challenged they accuse the others around them of selfishness or being ‘pushy’. If the pleasing spouse steps up and reveals their true heart they feel ashamed and vulnerable. They often feel selfish because a controlling parent kept them in their place as a child. There are so many ways to hide. We either run off into a new relationship or we keep ourselves in poisonous patterns of behaviour to live out a toxic marriage.
In this day and age ‘irreconcilable differences’ is a common catch-all for reasons for divorce. Psychiatrist Karl Lehman has an interesting take on how we get there. It is our own inability to cope that leads us to leave another. The emotions which we can’t deal with, which get triggered, he says, are our own. We all bring forward unresolved trauma and we all have pain which is unprocessed. The memory of that pain is triggered by those closest to us. It comes rushing to the fore when similar events happen in the present or when sensitive questions are asked. In our rage or despair we blame our present circumstances. We want to hide it deep down and forget about it. We can not see that our spouse has done us a favour by revealing areas in which we need to grow. Because of the pain we believe they have caused us, we want to fight them, freeze in hopes that it will go away, or flee. A difficult marriage can transform a person into something beautiful, but our culture does not teach that narrative. Instead of listening to the redemptive voice of God, one member listens to their own heart trying to justify its desire for independence. They want to blame their spouse, the serpent, the culture – but the consequences of taking on the responsibility of our own emotional turmoil is too much. God calls us to love our enemies. We do not become anything special by loving those who love us. Every culture celebrates loving the lovely. God loves us when we are unlovely. We were created in the image of God. God restores his image in the most self-sacrificial of people. Not doormats who allow tyranny and sin, but people who know themselves and reveal themselves persistently regardless of the reception. It takes courage to love first. To turn the heart back toward the spouse who has wronged us, deserted us, lied to us, or hidden from us. However, in this passage that is exactly the heart that God reveals. He doesn’t feel great about Adam and Eve’s sin. He knows the millennia of estrangement that they have just caused. However, he clothes them with garments and cares for their needs. It is beyond us to do the same. We will not find the answers to our relationships by sitting alone and developing our case against others. We need to leave our self to die and live the life of God. Only then can we rediscover the good of the Garden.
Let our relationships teach us to die to ourselves. Let us embrace the new life that you have for us through enduring through difficult times. May we press into pain and have the difficult conversations that are necessary in order to reveal ourselves. Give us the courage to be both vulnerable and to endure.
- What marriages have you seen fail?
- How was hiddenness a part of that failure?
- How can couples have a healthy self-disclosure when dating?
- How do couples endure the pain of disappointment?
- How do you redeem a relationship that has lost all feeling?