EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Flirting with the Forbidden: Finding Grace in a World of Temptation by Steven James (Revell).

1

Dusk

I lost two sons today.

One to his brother, the other to himself.

And I screamed.

Screamed into the darkening day.

But Death had come and there is no turning back, no rebirthing again. This I have learned. This is the lesson of my life.

Perhaps I should have seen it coming.

Yesterday, when I was preparing the morning meal with Cain, I had the small, tender sense that things had changed.

He told me that God had spoken to him, and I felt a flare of jealousy. God had spoken to me in the garden, yes, but hadn’t spoken to any of us since the rift, the great divide. Since we’d been banished from the place of harmony.

“What did God say to you?” I asked my son.

He was slow in responding. “It was a message for me.” I caught the hint of a grin. “Only for me.”

His words were like a slap in the face.

First he taunted me and now he was drawing satisfaction from it.

“Tell me, Son. What message did God give you?”

He eyed me. “He told me that sin is crouching at my door, that it wants to control me. But that I must master it.”

I was quiet. I didn’t know if this truly was the Lord speaking to him, but it was a message my son definitely needed to hear and I doubted he would have come up with those words on his own.

“Then you must master the sin, Cain,” I said. “The Lord will help you.”

“He told me I needed to do it.” A touch of venom in his words. “He never told me he would help me.”

“Do not talk that way.”

“Don’t speak in truth? You would have me—”

“Stop.” I stemmed off the argument. “Trust that God will help you and you’ll be able to resist.”

Then Cain smiled. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll resist.”

“Don’t open the door.”

“I won’t open the door.”

It would be easier if I didn’t remember the way things were in the Garden. It’s the knowing that hurts, the knowing that things were different once, that harmony was possible. I wish I didn’t know that, wish I could just erase the memories once and for all, forget it and live as if this were the best of all possible worlds.

But I can’t.

And that’s part of the curse.

It seems like so long ago when we walked with the Creator beside us. Listened to his presence. It wasn’t like a voice speaking but an understanding being shared that was beyond words. We were surrounded with the overwhelming weight of his holiness, the comfort of his acceptance, the warming presence of his unspeakable love.

The memory stings like a new breed of loneliness.

When Adam looks at me I can see it in his eyes too. A longing backward through time, before all of this. A terrifying regret that we will never feel that peace again.

I used to wonder what it would be like for my boys—growing up never knowing the way things were in the Garden, only seeing splintered, thorn-encrusted glimpses of paradise. And if I have more children—if—then I wonder if there will be an eventual forgetting of what things can be like between us and the Creator, each generation falling further from the knowledge of the Garden.