poison ivy and eden

Summer approaches. I have incontrovertible evidence in the fact that poison ivy is emerging from its winter sabbatical. All along the sides of the path modestly drooping three-leaved clusters rise on tender red stems.

Was the serpent in the Garden thus demure at first, hiding his shy face behind the thick-leaved fruit boughs, peering out to question, softly, “Did God really say . . . ?”

Jan Brueghel the Elder, "The Garden of Eden," 1612

When my cousin was a tiny girl she rubbed a poison ivy leaf all over her face: “Daddy, it’s so soft!” The rash made her eyes swell shut and was very uncomfortable — as poison ivy rashes are — but had no long-term consequences.

Not all seduction stories are so cleanly concluded.

This ivy grew in the Garden, I suppose, soft-leaved and lovely, perfectly safe for rubbing on faces, perfectly safe for brushing against ankles.

And then there was the question, the perfect hand stretched out to take the fruit that was a delight to the eyes, the perfect teeth piercing through the skin, the flavor of the knowledge of good and evil bursting on the woman’s tongue, on the man’s tongue.

Then the ground was cursed, and to eat of its fruit became pain. Their eyes were not swollen shut, but were wide open to the damage, their skin torn by the thorns of their disobedience, and the way back to innocence blocked with a flaming sword.

Even now these signs of new life, fresh vines growing up through last year’s leaves, come wrapped in the warning of death, and, though the leaves are still tiny, I find myself drawing to the center of the path, shrinking from the touch of a poison plant.

He was crowned with the thorns of our disobedience, drank the dregs of the cup of our iniquity. Though He knew no sin, He was willingly covered with the poison of our sinning, gave Himself up to the flames of that sword. He died.

But He didn’t stay dead. And when He emptied His own tomb, He conquered the curse, crushed the serpent’s head, and opened the way for us — the torn and disobedient — to be crowned with the spoils of His victory, to believe in Him, and enter into life everlasting.


©2014 by Stacy Nott, most of the story can be found in Genesis 3

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