Out Of the Garden


Bethany Suckrow -Out of the Garden3

What they don’t tell you about faith is how often you will find yourself standing in your kitchen doing something supremely ordinary, while asking the most earth-shattering questions of your life. I thought that if I stopped going to church that I would spare myself the sting of the unanswerable, but instead, I’m standing at the counter slicing into a sweet potato to sauté for breakfast and asking myself heretical questions such as,

“Were we really ever meant to stay in Eden?”

As I was cooking, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “Dear Sugar Radio”: the episode where they respond to a young woman, “Closeted Atheist”, who was scared to tell her parents that she no longer believed in God. Much of it I related to, some of it I didn’t. But the guest they invited to contribute to the conversation, the Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, stopped me in my tracks with this thought:

“We’ve all been kicked out of our parents’ gardens,” she said. “They’ve all been disappointed by us. We’ve ’sinned against’ their wishes, and we can’t go back.”

I narrowly avoided cutting my finger open as I listened.

I had never thought about how archetypal the story of Adam & Eve is in relation to our parents. How it happens to every generation. How it questions Eden in the first place. I’d always been taught to mourn it, but what if it’s better that we don’t have it? Should we have even tried to stay there? I understand that for Christians, Eden represents intimacy with God and perfection and life free from the burden of shame. But in my experience, the unspoken narrative of this story was one of unquestioning belief and conditional love. Would we have been happy and free, if we had never questioned the natural order of things? Was the fruit forbidden, or the question? Was Eve’s curiosity itself an original sin? What kind of “eternal love” is it, if it’s conditional? What kind of love is it, if it requires unquestioning obedience?

Am I even allowed to ask these questions?

For some of us, asking the questions got us kicked out of the garden of our family’s expectations. We can’t go back to the way things were before. Even if we could, would we be happy? Would we feel at home? Or would we still spend most of our time trying to hide what we know? We’re learning to make our own way in the world, and it feels dangerous and uncertain. 

But just now, standing over my sweet potato and listening to this podcast, it feels less like a parent about to catch us with our hands in the cookie jar, and more like that first time we attempt to cook alone in the kitchen without mom watching over our shoulder.

She’s given us all the tools and family recipes, but in the end, our own appetite and curiosity guide us. We gather our own ingredients and discover our own methods.

It’s a task so ordinary and elemental, but so vital: learning to feed ourselves. Learning to recognize our own hunger, and satisfy it. Ask all the questions that need to be asked, until we’re full.

Bethany Suckrow
I’m a writer and blogger at at bethanysuckrow.com, where I shares both prose and poetry on faith, grace, grief and hope. I am currently working on my first book, a memoir about losing my mother to cancer. My musician-husband, Matt, and I live in transition as we move our life from the Chicago suburbs to Nashville.
Bethany Suckrow
Bethany Suckrow

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