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Before there were drops of rain, human tears fell in the garden, and that was when lament began. In Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed the unbroken Presence of God. It was immediate and intimate. His hesed, an untranslatable Hebrew word often rendered "loving-kindness," was a given, reliable as the fresh, newly created air they both breathed.
Then, in a moment when the Presence seemed somehow impossibly absent, in some forgotten corner of the garden, Satan, the Accuser and ultimate cause of all lament, called into question the hesed of God.
"Here is some wonderful, life-giving fruit that He does not want you to have," he, in effect, hissed at Eve. He longed to deceive the first couple into believing that in order to know God, they only needed to know and receive His gifts. The great lie was that God's gifts were all that He was. The temptation was to believe that if the gift could not be had, then it was somehow not really real and neither was God's love. Do these vile whisperings sound at all familiar to you? Do you remember ever hearing them in some dark forgotten corner of your heart?
When it seemed His Presence was absent, the Accuser accused God of acting in a way inconsistent with His hesed. After all, Someone who is truly loving does not keep good gifts from His children, does He?
"Why doesn't He?"
"Where is He?"
And so the bite was taken. But it was not simply the bite itself that caused the Fall and gave birth to the first groanings of lament from both creature and creation. The bite was only a consequent act of disbelief. It was the denial and doubting of God's hesed that led to the dis-belief that caused the two prodigals to be driven into the wilderness of His absence, never to return. It was bound up with the mis-belief that God was only the sum of His gifts and no more. All this flowing from the stubborn sin of un-belief.
As the two outcasts made their stumbling way out of the garden, the hesed of God caused an innocent animal to be sacrificed to make garments to cover the nakedness of the first couple, so they would know they were naked. By such sacrifices, their sins would be covered until the time when they would be washed away by a final torrential wave of hesed that would break down the hillside of Golgotha, as One who was Himself the Presence of God would cry out in lament.
The Presence that had always been (and sadly would have always been) palpable and immediate was altered, seemingly broken, and lament became the language of Adam and Eve, of you and me, and indeed of all creation (see Romans 8:22).
Presence seemingly broken.
The lamentable journey began through Adam for all mankind. But the heartbreaking sorrow of the three (Adam, Eve, and God) was not and could never be beyond His perfect intention. It was a sovereign sorrow that fell upon the world, a wordless sorrow beyond our knowing. And as His loving wisdom does with all things, even and especially with our sin, God would redeem their disobedience and sorrow, transforming it by means of His hesed into a pathway back to the loving-kindness of His Presence.
It was a shadowy path that began outside the garden. It meanders through all our lives, inevitably leading us through the darkest valleys of our fallen experience. But we must never forget that it is a path, that it is going somewhere. There is a final destination somewhere outside the gates of a city. But I'm getting ahead of myself for now.
As we make our way along the shadowy twists and turns of the way of lament, two questions confront us again and again. They are echoes of the experience of the first couple in the garden. If you dig deeply enough you will discover that one or both of them lie at the heart of every lament, from Job's to Jesus'. The two fundamental questions of complaint:
God, where are you? (Presence)
God, if You love me, then why? (hesed)
Excerpted from A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card Copyright © 2005 by Michael Card. Excerpted by permission.
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