"'Where are you?' God chose his soft, inviting voice rather than the booming one that spoke the world into existence.
"The question seemed unusually loud in the deathly silence of the garden. Eve and I were still hidden behind a bush, afraid to move or breathe, idly hoping that God wouldn't find us, but knowing deep within us that he would. In fact, he already knew where we were, but he was giving us a chance at a little redemption, an opportunity to come clean, to allow ourselves to be exposed and to renege on the agreement we had made with the serpent.
"After awhile, I could bear the silence no longer. God had been here for eternity. I didn't think I'd be able to outwit or out-wait him. So I decided to answer his question, still lingering in the air even though a considerable time had passed since he had spoken it. He didn't force a confession; I offered it freely. We can't really hide from him anyway."
"So, let me get this straight. You ate of the only fruit God told you not eat, and he still didn't use his thunderous voice with you?" Abel asked. He'd always been led to believe that because God banished his parents, he was an iron-fisted tyrant ruling from somewhere beyond the western mountains.
Adam can't believe Abel is still enraptured by the tale. A good child, Abel pays attention to detail, especially when God is the topic. He takes seriously his role in the great drama that is their lives. If only Cain was so interested. Adam would rejoice if Cain even thought about God at all.
"Well, the story's not quite over, son."
"What did you say when you confessed? What was it like to be standing ashamed before God?"
Adam looks out into the distance and runs his hand over the back of his neck, leaning back, stretching and sighing before returning Abel's gaze. Abel's tone hadn't revealed the least hint of malice, but simply to hear his son vocalize his worst failure pierced his heart. He hesitates again before answering, as if trying to figure out the combination of words that could convey the tragedy of his actions without forever losing his son's respect.
"I don't know any other way to put this, son. I told God that we hid from him. When he asked how we knew we were naked and whether we had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, I blamed it on your mother," Adam says, fighting back tears unsuccessfully as a droplet slips out of the corner of his eye. Adam cannot bring himself to look back at his son. Abel is definitely not perfect, but his heart is good, and Adam feels exposed before him. Abel's soft response surprises Adam.
"Well, father, she had a part in it too. She did eat of the fruit first. She was deceived by the serpent. Yes, you should have stepped in to prevent it from happening, and you shouldn't have eaten the fruit yourself. But you can't blame yourself for everything," he says.
Adam looks up hopefully. Maybe his son doesn't consider him a completely pathetic excuse for a man. Voice faltering but gaining confidence from his son, Adam continues the story.
"Apparently God felt the same way. While he had asked me to give an account, he held both of us responsible, and he condemned the serpent for his role in the incident, and--"
"That's why we're here," Abel says, interrupting his father for the first time.
"Yes, that's why we're stuck in the far country," Adam confirms. "But it's more than that. You know that sinking feeling you have when you have to get up and go to work in the fields? Your brother knows this a little better, but do you know the disappointment you feel when the ground will not produce, or when one of your flocks is wiped out by a deadly disease? All that frustration, that lack of productivity, that toil that produces the sweat on your brow and the callouses on your hands; that is the Curse. And it doesn't end there. Albeit slowly, I know that I am aging, and one day I will return to the dust from which I was made."
"And that's it? That's what happens when our lives are over?" Abel feels that sinking feeling father was just talking about.
"Like I said before, I don't understand everything completely, but I do know this: The thing I miss most here in the Far Country is the companionship with God, the walks and talks in the garden, the face-to-face camaraderie rather than the long-distance relationship we experience now. We may love each other, son, but that love is nothing compared to the love God has for us. You will never understand in this life, but that was perfect love, the kind that does not fear and has no other agenda except the good of the beloved. Ever since that day God spoke to us harshly (and I cannot get his stern voice out of my head) I've been thinking about our purpose here. I've come to realize that our physical exile from our garden is only the outward representation of something going on within me. Without God, our souls are wandering in a dry and dusty land, thirsting for water only he can give, but lost and unable to find the spring."
Adam pauses. Just as Abel is about to give up hope, his father begins to speak again.
"But I believe that God is good. He loves us too much to let us wander forever, and although I may never see the day, I believe there will be a time when God brings us back. And that is what you must do, son. You must believe. You must sacrifice to God, and do everything you can to please him in this foreign land. You must find the spring."
Abel nods. He had never seen his father so impassioned. Could this be a glimpse of Adam's former glory? Then Abel follows his father's eyes and turns to watch the beautiful swirling colors of sunset in the west, a remnant of paradise lost, giving hope that redemption will one day bring this world back to life.