Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Where Are You?

Good thing that the Heavenly Paradise lasts forever, because anything resembling paradise on earth seems doomed to be short-lived. After the magnificent introduction to God and his creation of the universe—and of man, the pinnacle of creation, made in God’s image—it is only a short time before the first man and woman lose their paradisal privileges and begin the sorry history of fallen mankind.

How blissful it must have been in that brief period of sinless peace in paradise! Effortlessly tilling the soil and reaping bountiful fruits, living in love with God and with each other, the weather always perfect, sleep always peaceful, every experience fulfilling and pleasant, no pain, no sorrow, no taxes, no alarm clocks, no traffic jams, no indigestion, no insurance premiums, no abortionists, absolutely no possibility of a same-sex marriage, no Marilyn Manson, Osama bin Laden, or Hillary Clinton—paradise indeed! But it didn’t last, for there was someone who had used his freedom to destroy his own happiness, and he was hell-bent on getting everyone else to use theirs to destroy theirs.

We know the story of the temptation and fall. Temptation often starts gently enough, with an attempt at misdirection so as to engage the prey in dialogue, which is the beginning of the end. “Did God really say…?” Having made a choice against God and thus against their own happiness, Adam and Eve found themselves naked and ashamed (whereas before they were naked and unashamed—this means that sin had changed for them the meaning of nakedness, which was intended by God as part of their original bliss). So what does one do when one is naked and ashamed? One hides.

Thus came the inevitable and deeply-dreaded words of the Lord God: “Where are you?” Of course, God knew where they were, but that question was for Adam’s (and our) own reflection. The question He asked of Eve, once they were found, is more precise: “What have you done?”

These are questions God still asks of us sinners when we try to hide from his face because of our shameful sins, our using of our freedom to serve our passions instead of the will of God. It’s rather strange how we, in choosing what looks like freedom enslave ourselves, in choosing what looks like pleasure torment ourselves, in choosing what promises to be paradise condemn ourselves to hell. Too bad we don’t trust God with our happiness. He’s the one who designed paradise, after all, so He knows what makes for our fulfillment and joy. Alas, we listen to seductive voices and find ourselves running to hide, naked and ashamed, and it’s too late to undo the deed—though not too late to find forgiveness.

If there is to be redemption, however, we have to hear that divine voice: Where are you? Why have you run away from the One who loves you? What have you done? Are you ready to come out of hiding, face the truth, and start living in the light? That voice has haunted man since the question was first asked in Eden, for man has ever been fleeing from his God down the corridors of time, having left his innocence far behind him. But God never stops searching for him, calling out to him, inviting him back to paradise like the father of the prodigal son.

It is time to stop hiding, to stop fleeing the voice of the Lord God. Our consciences hold the record of our infidelities, and the simple question, “Where are you?” brings everything to our conscious awareness. Yes, where are we, vis-à-vis the Lord God and his commandments? What is it that we might still be trying to hide from Him, from ourselves? We’ve all become sinners due to our lamentable inheritance from the first ones to hide from God. But the restored paradise to come is for repentant, not fugitive, sinners. We must listen no longer to the lies of the crafty serpent, but to the word of the Lord God.

Come out of hiding. He is calling you. The tree of life is still blooming in paradise.