Long ago, before dinosaurs roamed the earth, and before lakes of oil pooled below the ocean floor, there was a great king. No one knows where this king came from, or what he did before giving us the greatest story ever told. All we know about him began when he appeared with a vision for a free world that would share his life and happiness. What follows is his story—and ours.
BY HIS WORDS
The king’s first act was to make a place for his plan to unfold. With power no one can explain, he gave a command and the universe exploded into existence. Later, as a newborn planet cooled under the cover of water and darkness, the king said, “Let there be light,” and the darkness ran from him.
While most of the cosmos remained barren and empty, the king reached down and lifted vast islands from the deep waters that covered his chosen planet. Then he transformed the dry ground into a paradise of rain forests and grasslands. He made high mountains, deep valleys, and white sandy beaches. He designed environments of enormous complexity. With unending attention to detail, the king filled the earth with color, texture, sound, and fragrance. By everything he made, he showed the breadth of his personality and greatness.
With endless wisdom and insight he filled the air, land, and oceans with living creatures of every shape and kind. From camels to chimpanzees, from microscopic insects to giant redwood forests, the king designed an endless variety of plants and animals. In all that he did, the king showed his ability to make something out of nothing and to bring order out of chaos. By the immensity and complexity of his universe, he showed that nothing is too large or too small to escape his attention or concern.
IN HIS LIKENESS
To put the finishing touch on all he had made, the king reached down and took a handful of clay. Under his gaze the lump of earth took shape. Then the king breathed his likeness into the form, and it became a man. As the man’s eyes opened, the mist and soft light of first dawn filled him with wonder. Everything was new. The air was clean. The colors and fragrances were fresh and gentle. As he walked among the trees, the king’s likeness sensed that all eyes were on him. He caught the gaze of a white-tailed deer that stopped grazing to look up. He reached out to stroke the coat of a wolf that came to greet him. He laughed as a lamb pushed the wolf aside and rubbed its head against his leg.
As the man became familiar with the garden, he grew in his admiration for the wisdom and creativity of the king. There seemed to be no end to the king’s imagination and goodness. “All of these are mine,” the king said. “I’m entrusting them to you. Care for them and you will see how I’ve cared for you.”
BY HIS LOVE
For a while, the caretaker basked in the solitude of his work. At some point, however, he became aware of an emptiness within himself. Even though he enjoyed regular visits with the king and was surrounded by friendly birds and animals, he had no one like himself to share the emotions of discovery and wonder. The king understood the caretaker’s loneliness. But instead of taking another handful of earth, he put his likeness to sleep, removed something from around the man’s heart, and from it formed a second likeness.
When the caretaker woke and saw what the king had given him, he smiled. The second likeness smiled back. They were alike, but they were different. They laughed at their ability to see what the other overlooked. Before long they were enjoying together the work the king had given them to do. These were good days for the first couple. They had a wonderful relationship with the king and with each other. On balmy evenings they all walked together among the trees the king had placed under their care.
The king had done so much for the couple. Everything in their garden home was a gift from him. But it was the king himself who won their hearts. He was full of surprises, but he didn’t hide how he felt about them. His love and respect for the caretakers was obvious.
Even though the king could have controlled their every thought and action, he was wise. At great risk, he gave them the gift of choice. He even gave the caretakers enough space to walk away from him if they wanted to. He knew that if they couldn’t leave him, neither could they choose to stay. Without freedom of choice and expression, the king’s vision for a free world could not be realized.
THE TEST OF TRUTH
To give the caretakers freedom, the king planted two trees in the center of the garden. One he called the tree of life. The other he described as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A central garden path forked at the trees and went off in two different directions. According to the king, the couple could eat of all of the trees of the garden, with one exception.
If they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. The caretakers understood that the king was giving them a choice. But they weren’t sure what the king meant by death. He had given them so much to enjoy. Why would he put anything off limits?
THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE
The man and woman were about to meet someone who had more problems with the king’s rules than they did. Up until now, they didn’t know the king had any enemies. The one who was about to walk into their lives had not always been a rebel. In another time and place, he too had been entrusted with honor and privilege. In the service of the king he was known by the names of “Light Bearer” and “Son of the Morning.”
At some point, however, Light Bearer became inflated with self-importance. Convinced that he deserved everything he had been given, he wanted what the king had withheld. Light Bearer began to imagine what it would be like to rule rather than to serve. He became intrigued with the thought of forming his own kingdom. When he finally decided to leave, he didn’t go quietly. He convinced one-third of all the king’s servants to join him. That was when Light Bearer became known as “the prince of darkness.”
In the days that followed, the rebel and his followers wandered the universe looking for a place to call their own. Along the way, they heard about the king’s caretakers and the garden home he had given them. With a plan as dark as the night sky, the rebel entered the garden in disguise. With a charm that concealed his motives, he drew the woman into a conversation.
THE TURNING POINT
With a well-timed question, the rebel set his trap. “Is what I’ve heard true? Has the king denied you access to every part of your own home?” At first the woman defended the king. But then, as she looked at the creature, she found herself having thoughts that had never occurred to her. “Why would the king say no to us about anything? What doesn’t he want us to know?” The questions kept coming. Was the king holding out on them? Did he warn them about the path marked by the tree of forbidden knowledge only because he didn’t want them to know as much as he did?
Having doubts about their creator was a new experience for the woman. She had often talked with her partner about the wisdom of the king. Together they wondered where he had come from and how he could know so much about everything. Their own relationship had deepened as the king shared more of himself with them. Now, however, all that they had learned didn’t seem to be enough. What happened next was a turning point they would never forget. The woman started down the forbidden path and motioned for her partner to follow. For a moment, the first caretaker paused. He remembered hearing the king describe what would happen if they ever took this path. He remembered hearing both love and concern in the king’s voice.
The man could hear his heart pounding. He felt caught and torn between his partner, the king, and his own curiosity. As the couple started down the path together, it was as if they had taken a powerful drug. Their minds were altered. Their innocence was gone. They felt exposed and vulnerable. With the tree of the knowledge of good and evil behind them, they grabbed leaves from the garden and sewed them together to cover themselves.