I think i’ve figured out . . .
Why did God put the tree of good and evil in the garden of eden? (*1) Why did God have to threaten they would die if they disobeyed? (*2) Why did God take our punishment when we ate of the tree? (*3)
Here’s a story that shows the whys.
There was once an orphanage that had been around for a very long time. In this orphanage, the old wise house mother always picked one leader who she thought more deserving than the rest to lead the others and help her run the house. The house leader was known by the backpack he or she wore everywhere. A first aid kit, was in the backpack among many things. There was also candy and snacks to give to the orphans when they were good, and the behavioral sheets that counted each orphan’s rewards or punishments. Walkie talkies were attached to talk to the house mother wherever she might be. It was a great honor to be the house leader, but also a grave responsibility.
A pair of twins, Lupe and Raul, lived in the house. They had good, upstanding parents who died in a governmental coup when Lupe and Raul were three years old. Having no other relatives, Lupe and Raul were brought to the orphanage. At the time we start our story, they are ten years old- younger than most of the other kids in the house. They were old enough to understand the rules but young enough that they hadn’t yet seen anybody who had received the house mother’s worst punishment. Everybody knew that the very worst punishment was to be locked in the tiny dark shed in the back of the back yard away from all the other children with no food for days at a time.
It was well known in the house that there had not been an orphan leader for at least ten years. And whenever any of the kids had asked the house mother about it, she kindly said, not to worry, that she had it all planned out.
One day the dear old house mother came into Lupe and Raul’s tiny room and said she had a surprise for them. She said their room was needed for some new orphans but that she wanted to show them something. They followed her up the dusty stairs to the lonely, locked door at the highest place in the house. She stopped at the closed door and knelt down to talk to them.
She pulled them close in her arms and began. “You two have made me so proud. You are so well behaved and you always get along with the others. I need to use your room but I want to give you a new one.” She unlocked the door and pulled on the chain switch, lighting up the attic room.
Lupe and Raul’s eyes got big (the house mother was so pleased at this.) The wooden attic was filled with old toys that had been recently dusted and laid out around the edge of the room. There was a beautiful soft rug on the wooden floor and two simple, quaint beds were on either side of the rug.
“I give all of this to you two.” She said as she watched them scanning the beautiful room in awe. “There are a lot of toys up here that you can play with, and you can share them if you want to. You can let others play in this room, but you set the rules and teach the others how to get along like you two.”
They nodded and said thank you over and over and hugged the big soft house mother. She said they were welcome with a mysterious smile in her eyes as she looked up to the high peak of the attic above the frosted round window. They looked at the place too. There was something there they had not noticed before.
There on the shelf high above their beds sat two big boxes wrapped in shiny new red wrapping paper.
“What are those for?” Raul asked her.
She replied, “Oh yes, the presents. I almost forgot. Listen to me closely. Those are for you but do not open them yet. If you open those presents, you will see the punishment of the shed. That is how much I need you to obey me.”
“Why can’t we look?” Lupe asked respectfully.
“Oh, don’t worry. Don’t worry. Just trust me, my dear. I have a plan.”
The House Mother kissed them and she left them to get settled in.
Over the next week Lupe and Raul laid down some rules and invited the other orphans to play with the toys in their room. The kids were overjoyed at the beautiful wooden rocking horses and yo-yos and little metal cars. Everything was going smoothly. . . except . . . some of the kids could not resist knowing what was in the two presents in the top of the room.
“We can’t open them yet.” Lupe told the little boy that was begging her to.
“Why not? You could just open it and wrap it back up. House Mom would never even know.” He was older than Lupe was and he made sense, she thought.
“But House Mom said that we would see the punishment of the shed if we opened them.” Lupe replied.
“You know she wouldn’t do that just for opening a present!” They boy looked down and scoffed at her. “That doesn’t hurt anybody! She’s probably testing you. She really wants you to start to make decisions for yourself when you know you’re ready for the presents. Why else would she put it there right where you look at it every day.”
That made sense to Lupe. She looked over at her twin brother, playing with the cars on the floor with his friends. She slowly turned and dragged her bed over in front of the window where she could stand on the head board to reach the shelf. She was nervous. Why did she feel so sad, she thought? She wanted to see what was in the box. And maybe it was really a test to see if she was mature enough for the present. That would make the House Mom happy.
As she tugged on the bed it skipped over the wooden slats and jerked over to the space beneath the shelf. All the kids heard it and now all eyes were riveted to her. She slowly climbed and stood on the tip of her toes to reach one of the boxes. It was barely within her reach and she pulled it down and it fell onto the bed. She looked down at it and a little tag on the top (though now tipped on its side) said Raul. Raul got up and picked up his present. It was heavy. He shook it and there were lots of little things and one big thing inside. Lupe struggled some more and pulled hers down and it also fell onto her bed.
Together on her bed they both slowly opened the presents. All the kids watched them carefully peel off the tape so that they could rewrap later. That was why this was ok. If this wasn’t a test of their maturity, she would never know.
Within one minute they had the paper off and they were ready to open the cardboard box itself. They looked at each other, knowing that they must open them at the same time. And they did.
Lupe was the first to pull out the backpack. A beautiful red bag with tools attached to the outside and a first aid kit showed through the mesh on the front. And in the side pocket was the shiny black walkie talkie. The house mom meant for them to be the next two orphan leaders. And now everybody knew it. They were two of the youngest in the whole group but now, they knew that they had to carry all the responsibility of all the orphans. They had just lost the rest of their childhood.
“Lupe! . . . Raul!” the house mother’s voice was muffled through the door an hour later. “All the other kids are already down here for dinner! Come down.”
When she didn’t hear their usual pleasant voices she called again and knocked on the door. They still didn’t answer. She opened the door and came in. She saw Raul sitting in the corner behind his bed with two little metal cars grasped tightly in his hand. Lupe was under her bed. House mom heard her crying quietly. “What’s wrong with you two! why didn’t you answer?!” She looked up and the presents were on the shelf right where they were supposed to be. “Raul! Why didn’t you answer me, my dear boy?”
He struggled to speak for half a minute until it finally came out. “I don’t want you to see me.”
A knowing sadness fell over her face and she approached him slowly. She knelt down beside him and rubbed his shoulder lovingly. “Lupe, come over here, dear.” Lupe shuffled over and House Mom wrapped her arm around her and pulled her to her soft bosom. “Why didn’t you want me to see you, Raul?”
“Because i don’t have something on.”
House mom tried to look into Lupe’s big brown eyes. “You too?” Lupe buried her face deeper into House mom’s embrace.
“Are you talking about your backpacks?”
They both nodded as if relieved to get it off of their chests.
Her tone was now very serious. “You opened the boxes? I told you not to or you would see the punishment of the shed.”
“We know.” Raul turned away from her. He tried not to cry anymore. As an orphan leader he had to be strong.
House mom sighed very deeply. “Ooohhhh, my dears. Now you know that the others will resent you, right? If you had waited until your 16th birthdays, you would have been one of the oldest and finally ready to be the house leaders.”
There was a long silence. She held Lupe tightly and rubbed Raul’s shoulder lovingly like children, cherishing it as if she would never be able to do that in the same way ever again. She got up and said, “Come down to dinner if you two would like. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the shed.
The next day there was a very somber meeting. No one had talked to Lupe, nor Raul since the incident. House Mom addressed them all, “There has been no house leader for ten years. That is because I had a really bad experience with the last one. But I thought when Raul and Lupe got older they would make very good house leaders. And now you all can see what I was planning. I know they are too young now, but now you all know who I had planned to be it. It cause more problems if I picked someone else now, who is less qualified. I just ask you to please give them as much respect as you can. I had to threaten the punishment of the shed to show these two how serious i was (*2) and you need to know that i keep my word so I cannot go back on my promise (*3).”
Raul looked at the ground. Lupe whimpered and looked frantically for a friend among the crowd. They all avoided her eyes.
House Mom took Raul and Lupe outside and talked to them on the porch, the dark, overgrown shed looming in the distant corner of the yard. She hugged each of them and said. You two will do ok alone. I’m sorry that you opened the presents and I’m sorry that you have to see the punishment. I’ll miss you guys for the whole week.
Raul, feeling as much a man as a ten year old could started walking to the shed. He was growing up very fast. Lupe began to cry.
“Wait!” House mom called to him. He stopped and slowly turned around, looking at the ground.
“No, come back here, Raul.” He slowly walked back towards the house like he saw no purpose in it. She continued, “I’ll be out there for a week. If you can just bring me a cup of water every day, that is all someone in the shed receives. and i cannot talk to anybody. You two must lead alone while I’m gone. You can do it. I know you can.” And the house mom walked out to the shed and commanded Raul to lock the pad lock and take the key.
Lupe cried out, “No! you can’t go in there. We’re supposed to be in there. You can’t do that! Why are you doing that?! We can’t do it without you!”
But House Mom would not break her rules; she was a woman of her word; she would not speak.
Raul and Lupe grew older in a hostile house. No one was their friend. No one played in the attic with them. The jealousy spread through the house and caused fights. Lupe and Raul struggled to make peace between all the members, but that was their job. They walked around with their back packs, laying down rules so that everybody would get along. They mended skinned knees and had serious meetings with the House Mom to ask for her help with the problem children.
The ability to lead and the decisions of the two young leaders were doubted and questioned almost every day. Some of the older kids questioned why the House Mother had placed the two presents where they could all see them, and it was questioned if the mother knew all along that they would open them. But there was one thing that was never questioned and never doubted again while the kids still lived in the orphanage. That thing was the depth of the love that the House Mom had for all of them, no matter how they disobeyed, proven by the horrible lonely punishment she took for a disobedience she didn’t even do.
On Raul and Lupe’s sixteenth birthday House Mom told them about the last House Leader. She said, that he had told all the other kids that she didn’t really love them- that she was just using them to get money from the state. And they all turned against her and only trusted the house Leader, who controlled them, turning the house into basically a slave house where all the kids had to prove themselves worthy to stay in good standing.
The House Mother told Raul and Lupe, that she was sorry that they had gone through so much pain for the last six years. But that she believed it was worth it. It was worth it because more important than knowing pain and difficulty was that the orphans truly knew in the depths of their being that they were loved by somebody and there was nothing they could ever do to lose that.(*1) And she did it because she thought that only something like what she did would stick with them for the rest of their lives.