I sit atop a hill, look out on the vastness of God’s good creation, mingled with human development. A pristine golf course, with lush green everywhere, the only spot of red and orange is the hint of leaves in the distance, as the begin their annual return to the earth. It is pouring and my only shelter is an umbrella, a make-shift covering on a camp chair. As I wait for golfers to come play in the rain, offering them a chance to play the “closest to the pin” hole, I bite into my favorite of all the apples, the Honey Crisp, and it doesn’t disappoint. Tonight, Kelly Gissendaner is scheduled to die.
Under the shelter of my umbrella, looking at this garden of green, with the sweet, crisp taste of fall still lingering, I wonder what it was like for Eve. Did she look out and see the beauty, the hope, the new-ness of everything? Did she become disenchanted with the ordinary-ness that the garden of home became? What was she hoping to taste when she took that bite?
Eden is all around. We are constantly given the gift of recreating that which has always been, and we are given the option of destroying it as well. Kelly heard the voice of the serpent over the voice of the Creator that fateful day, decades ago. Most of us have heard it too. We may not kill, but we destroy nonetheless: gossip, envy, apathy, cruelty–it abounds.
Here’s what we forget. Eve was cast out of the garden, but she was not alone. Adam went with her (he was cast out too, of course). And they went on. They had a life with children and chores and Sunday dinners around the table. Grief would come into their lives again and they would survive that too. In the Rite of Christian Burial are the words “to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.” Eve knew that truth.
Kelly knew it too. Life changed. It didn’t end. And in a prison cell, she recreated Eden. She recreated herself, becoming ever more like the One who created her. In the image of God, he created them. In the image of God, all of us are created. And we hear the serpent and we bite the apple and we are cast out of Eden. And by grace and hope, we are given the chance to recreate Eden. Not the same, but life, real life, good life.
Today Kelly, now numbered with the saints in light, knows this even more fully. For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended. It’s true for us too. Let us remember it. Let us recreate Eden everyday.