14 June 2014

Mrs Cain: God-forsaken World

Genesis 4

They say that, not so long ago,
the world was young and beautiful,
the earth brought fruit, and work was joy,
there was no pain, no hate, no fear,
no guilt, no shame, no hiding away,
but peace, true peace,
and You.

But now I lie on blood-stained ground,
staring out into a void
of distant stars so pale and cold
in this god-forsaken world.

I carry his burden of guilt and shame,
as we move from here to there,
fleeing - from whom? - from you? ourselves?
from the blood on his hands -
afraid, alone,
in this god-forsaken world.

What are we now but helpless exiles,
trying to survive in a god-forsaken world,
conscience eating away inside,
nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
in this world made cruel by ourselves.
Where is the peace,
where are You -
is there no end to this curse,
this curse of our own making?

And yet
we're not forsaken
in this god-forsaken world,
for You show mercy still:
You guard us from falling
(if only we'd hear!),
You give us protection
(a sign on his brow),
You bless us to be
a creative people,
creative like You -
our Creator.
It is not hopeless yet.

Distant You seem -
hidden behind a veil
that I can't draw away -
but still You are there,
watching me,
guiding me,
speaking, wanting us to hear
Your words of mercy
that we don't deserve,
Your promise of peace
(just like before!),
Your breath that still
gives life to this world,
this god-forsaken world
that You have not forsaken
after all.


[12. - 14. June 2014]

Cain (son of Adam and Eve) was the "first murderer": he killed his brother Abel, out of jealousy. Because when Abel sacrificed to God, God accepted the sacrifice - but when Cain did the same, God did not accept it. It doesn't say why, I also don't think it means Abel was the better guy and Cain had something "wrong" about him.

The interesting thing in the story is how God speaks to Cain. You see there is a relationship there, it's not like Cain isn't interested in God or God doesn't like Cain (in fact Cain cares enough about God's opinion that he gets frustrated when, to his eyes, God shows Abel preferential treatment). God in fact warns Cain not to give in to his anger and jealousy (v.6-7). Cain does not listen, however, and commits the first murder. God punishes him by sending him away from his family and his former livelihood (farming). There again we see the interesting relationship between God and Cain: Cain is afraid of being hunted down and killed for what he has done - and God, even while letting him feel the consequences of what he did, gives Cain protection by putting a mark on his brow that will keep people from hurting him.

If you look at the genealogy that comes after the story, you can see that Cain's descendants were a creative people: musicians and metalworkers.

So when writing about Cain's wife, I tried to imagine the "feeling" in a dark new world just newly fallen into sin, where there still was a living memory of Eden where there was peace and the nearness of God. Also I tried to capture the situation of Cain fleeing - partly also fleeing from his conscience - and his wife feeling with him and carrying his burden with him.

Of course the conclusion of all this is that, even though the poem is called "God-forsaken World" and Mrs Cain laments about the distance of God, God has not forsaken the world but still is here, still cares about the fate of humanity, and has a greater plan in store to bring everything right. Think about it: in Jesus, God Himself came down into this "god-forsaken world" and experienced all the pain of being forsaken when He died on the cross. God is not far away, but came right here among us, became one of us, and that way He has broken the curse that we brought on ourselves. So now what has been dividing us from God has been taken away; He is not distant but near, and if we believe in Jesus then He lives right with us and even in us, making us His temple - which if you read some of the Old Testament texts about the temple, is quite an amazing thing.

The hope that was there for sinners at the very beginning, in the time of Adam and Eve and Abel and Cain and his wife, has been fulfilled in Jesus. If the world was not yet forsaken then, then it definitely is not forsaken now - though we still wait for the completion of God's promise when He will make all things new, and the very last divide will be gone, and we will see God face to face. :)

Picture by Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon. Picked it because it actually shows us Cain's wife!

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