“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” - Genesis 2:16b-17 (NRSV)
"Kertyschoo!" sneezed naughty Peter as he hid from the angry gardener, Mr. McGregor, in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Charming as that sneezy word is, I don't usually find sneezes adorable. I get sneezed on by far too many little ones (such as my own), oblivious to the peril of contagion. A sneeze becomes a warning, a sign of danger ahead.
So too for Beatrix Potter. Peter has ignored his mother’s admonition not to graze in the garden where his father had been snared and baked into a pie. But the carrots, the radishes were irresistible! And then…kertyschoo! A sneeze gives his hiding place away. Big trouble is soon to follow.
How many times has God warned us away from tempting gardens? But we go anyway. Out of habit, without thinking it through, following our friends, our culture, our greedy appetites, we’re always feasting on other people’s bounty.
At “the time of the evening breeze” they hid from shame, as the fruit they consumed ate away at their consciences. They did not know what to do with their shame.
Hiding in the bushes from the One who would come to walk with us, I wonder this:
What’s our sneeze? What is it that gives away our hiding place?
What would it take for us to err and…come forward? Unafraid of our God?
Maybe the largest offense was not their disobedience, but their lack of trust. What if they had owned up to their error? What if they had stood together and copped to their mistake? What if, rather than pointing the finger or hiding, Adam, Eve, Peter, any of us, stood brave and tall and asked for forgiveness?
Are you hiding from God?
Are you ready to give up your hiding place?
Creator God: you made us from love and you save us with love. Thanks be to you. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.