the harpist plays strings fashioned by human hands,
and makes heavenly music.
what melodies you must make
strumming the strings you fashioned and strung
so deeply in my soul!
Now, although Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame.
—Moses, explaining the original innocence of humanity (Genesis 2:25)
You should have seen Erik and Jamal play basketball together. They were on my high school hoops team, and both guys were All-Americans. It was pure poetry. Erik was our point guard, and Jamal was a six-foot-four forward with a thirty-six-inch vertical leap. Erik could weave a pass through a New York City rush hour, and Jamal knew how to defy gravity. They went together like popcorn and butter, like chips and salsa. In one game alone, Jamal had five consecutive dunks, two from Erik’s alley-oops.
Once in a while you see an artist or an athlete or a musician step out of himself and disappear into his art and you sit there thinking, He was made for this. He was made for this. For Erik and Jamal, that happened on the basketball court. Pure poetry.
Throughout our lives we see moments of harmony, precision, symmetry, unbridled beauty, poetry in motion. But here’s what I’ve been wondering lately: why is it so rare? You’d think in a world of seven billion people all striving to become more happy, successful, and fulfilled, we wouldn’t have to look so hard to find those moments when life really rocks, when true harmony appears.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived without tension or regret. They had no prejudice, stress, hatred, rebellion, guilt, worry, or fear. They weren’t ashamed of themselves or their choices or their God. Nothing had shattered the harmony. Nothing had splintered the original song. I can hardly imagine what that kind of world would be like.
We still see glimpses of the good, fragments of beauty, echoes of the holy, but it’s always marred on this planet of school shootings, white lies, brain tumors, junk mail, terrorist attacks, political spin, sprained ankles, corporate cover-ups, AIDS, gossip, indigestion, heartache, and big angry dogs. We know harmony is possible, but it’s so elusive. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to recapture it, to hear it clearly once again. And most of us fail. And shame? Well, we don’t like to think about that too much. We ignore our failures and downplay our moral meltdowns, and we fill our lives with frantic distractions so we can avoid noticing the splinter of guilt embedded so deeply in our souls.
But it was different in Eden. Adam and Eve spent time one-on-one with
God, and nothing got in the way. No shame. No fear. No posturing. No religion. Just harmony, playing itself out in the synchronicity of creation. Adam was one-note, Eve another, and God a third. And they were woven together in a melody of relationship none of us has ever come close to recapturing. We hear faint echoes of that original song. But we haven’t heard the whole thing. Not for a long, long time.
No one’s life is totally in tune anymore. Both Erik and Jamal managed to play a year or two of college ball before injuries or personal problems or whatever drove them from the court.
Whenever I see a science fiction version of utopia in a novel or a movie, I’m always left wondering, Is that the best we can do? Sure, the people are well cared for. Sickness is gone. No one has dandruff or bad breath or zits. Little boys don’t fight, argue, or miss the toilet. Little girls don’t kick, scream, whine, or pout. Instead they just share the toys and giggle a lot and play nicely with their little brothers. Adults don’t sweat, swear, conquer, compete, pass kidney stones, throw golf clubs, or get depressed. No one gets warts or stretch marks. Everything is provided. Everyone is happy . . . I guess.
Danger is gone. Temptation is gone. Life is safe and comfortable and secure and predictable. But of course there’s no adventure anymore. No thrills, no risks, no new frontiers, no new challenges, just happiness—if you can call it that. If you call a life of no excitement, no struggle, no passion, and no uncertainty happiness. I can think of better words for it. I think there’s a reason bedtime stories always end with “happily ever after.” Once everything is happy and there’s no struggle, then there’s no more story to tell. We don’t want to hear about happiness and peace unless the story also includes freedom and discovery. Without discovery all you have is monotony. Without freedom, utopia isn’t paradise after all. It’s just hell in a fancy prom dress.
But God can create a better paradise than that. I think it’s telling that God’s first words to humans were “You are free” (Genesis 2:16 NIV). Eden was untamed and people were free. The future held forth the promise of infinite challenge, exploration, and adventure. We call Eden a garden, but I think it was more like a jungle. Each moment was a new frontier. Adam and Eve enjoyed both freedom without restraint and happiness without limits. Try to wrap your mind around that. I’ve tried, and I can’t.
Life hummed with harmony just as God had intended it to. Our first parents were in tune with nature and in touch with each other and at peace with the Creator of it all.
I can hardly imagine a place where freedom and happiness are both boundless and don’t cancel each other out the way they do in our world. We just can’t seem to have one without the other. Not even our best novelists and movie directors have been able to picture that kind of world. In Eden, freedom and happiness complemented each other. They met. They held hands. They ran together through the jungle.
No shame back then; just harmony. Adam and Eve experienced both the elusive happiness and the ultimate freedom we all crave. They lived in the place our greatest saints and holy men have only dreamed about. They immersed themselves in the life our mystics and madmen and prophetesses have only glimpsed in fleeting moments. It was pure poetry back then. Everything was in sync. And the game was never meant to end.
Yet even here on this early page of our story a shadow looms on the edge of paradise. Evil has slithered onto the scene. The strings that played the most perfect melody between God and humanity are about to be plucked and snapped in half, and the ancient song would not be heard again until it echoed from an empty grave.
touching the unseen
when i pause long enough to listen,
i hear noise rather than music in my soul.
the chords of my heart strain to find the first harmony.
it’s there, somewhere in my distant memories,
i hear snatches of it sometimes
in the silences, in the corners, on the outskirts of my dreams.
but my days are all so busy and
my moments are all so heavy,
that they pull my hope down again into minor key.
is harmony even possible anymore
in this out of whack, out of tune world?
lead me into the music again.
show me where the breeze of your harmony blows.
for only with your help
will i ever be part of the original song