Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cain and Abel

For the past five years I've been on a literary journey of my own choosing. I'm reading all of Madeleine L'Engle's books in the order they were published. I don't read her books exclusively, and she was very prolific, so it's taken me awhile. Right now I'm reading her 29th book out of 63. Some books are young adult novels, some are novels for adults, some poetry, some memoir, some books of prayers, and some theology.

There are certain books that I eagerly look forward to and others that I pick up only because they are on the list and I've committed to reading them all. At least once I've made a comment like, "I'm not really looking forward to reading this one" to a friend. That friend has responded with, "Then why don't you skip it?" But reading the books that I'm not naturally drawn to is what makes this journey rewarding. It teaches me things about faith and about Madeleine L'Engle that I wouldn't know if I only stuck to the books I'm most drawn to. And each time I read one of the books I am less than excited about I find a treasure.

The book I'm reading right now is called Ladder of Angels. In it Madeleine retells familiar Bible stories, and next to each story is an illustration by a child from somewhere throughout the world. Let's just stay this was not one of the books I was desperate to read. I mean, I know these stories. I grew up in Sunday School and have read them over and over in the Bible. And really, do I want to see a bunch of pictures by kids I don't know personally? But I started reading it and was, of course, pleasantly surprised. Some of the pictures are astounding! I am so impressed by the kids' artistry. And the oh-so-familiar Bible stories are fresh with Madeleine's words. One of my favorites so far has been the story of Cain and Abel, so I thought I would share it with you here.

There had never been children before.
Eve did not know what was happening to her, with her belly swelling and movement within it and then a great ripping and tearing. There was terror and there was pain.
And then, Cain, squalling, red-faced and angry at the indignity of birth. The first child. He would have preferred simply to have been formed of dust.
When Abel was conceived Eve understood what was happening, so perhaps it was easier to hold Abel, to gentle him against her breast, knowing that the hungry lips were searching only for milk, not trying to bite and hurt and destroy.
The two children romped like lion cubs. They vied for love. They loved and hated and were jealous. But it was all easier for Abel.
So Cain hit him. There had never before been death. He did not know why Abel did not get up and hit him back.
He did not know that he had brought death into the world, and that, as he would bear its mark, so would we.
Cain resented Abel, and bequeathed us his death.

I suppose it's a little dark for me to say this has been one of my favorite stories in the book thus far. It's not that I love reading about the first murder. It's just I found this story so interesting. I've read the account in Genesis 4 so many times, but I'd never thought about how scared Eve must have been when she was pregnant with the first child ever. Or that Cain might not have realized that when he attacked his brother it would end his life. They had experienced animals' deaths, but I wonder if the first family realized the same thing could happen to them.

I've got quite a few mores stories to go in Ladder of Angles, and then I get to move on to a young adult novel! It's a fun journey. What are you reading these days?

1 comment:

  1. I've finally been able to do some reading on my trip! I finished "A Cat called Norton" a few days ago. It's a super cute story about a man who hated cats and his now famous cat Norton. It reminded me a lot of my sister and the fluffy :)

    Now I'm reading a book Katrina gave me called "Have a Little Faith" by Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven"). I'm liking it so far. It's Albom's own faith story told along with the story of his Rabbi and a Christian pastor.

    Next on my list is Miller's book :)