The Parent of the First Parents
By Phillip Garside
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are “new people.” Our word for “new people” is children.
Usually, Adam and Eve are artistically depicted as a buff (but, more often than not, beardless) adult man and a voluptuous adult woman. But a healthy meditation for us parents is to picture them like “new people” – that is, when you read the story, picture them like physical children.
As a parent the story immediately becomes comical, because we recognize all the tropes of hiding, lying, blaming the other, and then blaming the parent for the wrongdoing. It’s also a little traumatizing for the same reason. As parents, when we read this story through our maternal or paternal lens, we generate a profound empathy for the disappointment and yet compassion of God.
Using our experience to garner this empathy gives us a sense of God’s implementation of mercy, forgiveness and pedagogy (teaching). It helps us be better parents, reminding us that Christianity’s primary analogy for God (father) is specifically rooted in our vocation. That said, it is only an analogy. Our quest to understand God perfectly by means of our own experience is more doomed to failure than our small children thinking they have us “figured out.”
So, there is a second step to our meditation.
Once we have gleaned the appropriate compassion and mercy for these “children,” we need to flip the script back and again picture Adam and Eve as adults, because it turns out that humans aren’t that creative when it comes to sinning and self-rationalizations. Adults are just more clever at hiding it.
The summative skill is to extend the experience of love, compassion and mercy that you perceived God would have for his children (because you experience it for your children) to all of your neighbors.