the first mother

Eve huddled in the scrawny shade of an olive tree.

She knew she shouldn’t be there. She had plenty of work to do, a meal to prepare and a house to clean.

 But there she sat.

 “What can I do?” she thought. “I can’t mourn Able because I’m scared of what will happen to Cain. I can’t help Cain because I’m too busy missing Able.”

 With tears trickling down her cheeks, she thought – just as the mothers who came after her would think.

 “I know this is my fault. What did I do wrong? How could I have failed Cain so much?”

 Looking up at the searing sun, she thought back over the short lives of her two sons.

 Cain, the eldest, was just 19 and a shepherd. She would have characterized him as a gentle man who could sooth the most frightened lamb. And now he was lost and frightened.

 Able. Her younger son has been a brawny youngster of 16, one who spent long hours tending the fields and nurturing his plants. When harvest was ready, he brought the first and the best of all his crops to her. Now she would never see him again except in her dreams.

 “His blood calls out to me!” she thought. “But I can’t forget Cain, who also needs redemption and help.”

 Thinking back to the Garden before she and Adam sinned and were forced out into the world full of work, pain and sorrow, she knew things could have been different. But who made it different?

 “The serpent tempted me with the fruit of the one tree God told us not to eat. But it was just one little fruit. Who knew that the knowledge of good and evil could be so devastating? So maybe it’s the serpent’s fault,” she thought.

 After mediating a bit, she shook her head slowly.

 “No, I was the one who decided to eat. Yes, the serpent enticed me. But I had a choice and I chose. As soon as I realized the sin – and how great it was – I sought cover. I found Adam and invited him to share the fruit of the tree. I thought if he refused, maybe God would forgive me because my husband was such a good man. And if he ate, at least I wouldn’t be alone in my sin.”

 “No, I can’t do that to Adam. Yes, he had the same choice that I did. But his wrong choice didn’t make my wrong choice any better,” Eve thought.

 Eve looked up again. She’d been here a long time and the sun was now low in the sky.

 “Maybe, just maybe,” she thought, “it’s God’s fault. After all, he was the one who gave us the choice. He knew what I was going to do before I did it. How is that real choice?”

 Pondering ever more deeply, the woman realized she couldn’t blame God. She would not be human if she didn’t have that choice. God may have had foreknowledge, but he didn’t force the choice.”

 There it was – all her fault. She sat with the tears trickling through the fingers.

 “Mama,” she heard. “Mama, where are you?”

 She looked up. Flying down the path was Tamara, her youngest child. The beautiful 5-year-old sang as she ran.

 “Mama, I couldn’t find you. Where did you go? It’s scary when you’re not around,” Tamara said as she sank down in the hard dirt beside her mother.

 Eve knew then that God had given her an answer for her pain.

 Yes, she had sinned. Yes, both her sons had paid for that sin.

 But she had another chance. She had Tamara, who she could teach to be thoughtful of others and God, to thank God for all her blessings and to think before she acted.

 Eve jumped up and pulled Tamara up by the hand.

 “Come along, child. We have much to do,” she said. “We have to prepare flowers for your brother Able’s grave so he’ll know we are remembering him. We must fix a lunch for your brother Cain so he can leave and find shelter elsewhere. But he’ll know we are remembering him.

 “And even more, we must laugh and sing and find your father. He is sad and we must cheer him up,” Eve said. “You are my sunshine. You must help me make the desert a home again.

 And they did.