Some friends and I were talking about Cain the other day and stumbled into some brain questions. We normally tend to focus on the punch line of the story which was the murder and judgment, but there is so much more to his life than that.
David brought up how emotionally yanking it must have been for Cain to live within sight and memory of the Garden of Eden and to have no access to it at all.
Imagine being a kid who lived near the Garden, could listen to his parents tell the story of what it was like in there, and possibly actually see the angel at the entrance to the Garden, all the while knowing he would never experience the quality of life his parents had tasted there.
What does it do to a child to be raised with a sense of loss that incomprehensible? I read the story of the Garden, but it doesn’t really impact me. Adam and Eve had been there! They lived it and could tell their kids what this amazing other life and world was like — the one they would not have.
Then it suddenly dawned on me that in addition to that keen sense of loss, there was the added pressure of being the one expected to redeem the loss.
It would appear from the way Eve named him that she expected him, not Someone millennia later, to be the savior of their world. So walk through this pressure.
Eve conceives. Without the ultrasound she had no way of knowing whether this was a boy or a girl. If it was a girl, she would be a keen disappointment to Eve since it would take a son to save her from the mess she made.
So in the womb, Cain is already subjected to the ambivalence. He will be the hero or the blooper when he is born, and he has absolutely no control over where he will fit in the culture.
That ought to warp a kid!
Then there is the savior issue. From the time Eve knew she was pregnant, there was stunning pressure on the boy child to fulfill the promise she received from God and to redeem the whole of humanity (at least that is the way she seemed to see it even though that was not God’s actual plan).
Now Cain was bearing a load of parental expectations that was based on some severe non-reality. He was being asked to do what he most assuredly was not designed to do.
And that DOES warp a kid pretty thoroughly.
So Cain had a seriously subpar experience in the womb. He grew up with high exposure to the golden past that was no more. And he had the unremitting pressure to somehow fulfill the promise of God to redeem the whole family and all of the future.
I’ll bet if we did an EEG on his brain, it would have some seriously wacky patterns.
And if he went for inner healing, we would find a lot of trauma, ungodly beliefs, alienation and sundry other familiar problems.
At this point, our modern culture would move quickly to place the blame for Cain’s antisocial behavior on the society. How on earth could any fair minded person blame him when he obviously had a raw deal from conception?
This logic is becoming increasingly popular and brain research is showing in a convincing manner that the roots of so many adult dysfunctions are in childhood brain development, or underdevelopment.
So where does a Christian stand in the face of this?
First of all, I absolutely believe in the reality of inadequate or twisted parenting producing deficient brains that significantly impinge on an adult’s ability to behave in a socially acceptable manner.
That is simply fact, proven a thousand times over. No question, even from a Christian.
And if that was the whole story, then we should cull our crop of children like we do a field of carrots.
But we are more than carrots. There are two other huge variables. One is the human spirit and the other is the presence of God.
Let’s roll the story back to Cain. Frankly, I can’t quite get into the pity party for him. When I think of generational treasures, you have to stand back and be simply staggered at the thought of being, essentially, God’s grandson.
For those of us who have taken out staggering amounts of generational trash over the years of doing endless renunciations, think of what it must have been like to be the son of the first two humans ever — hand crafted by God, with NO — can you even grasp that — NO generational garbage.
Think about it. Cain’s dad and mom only had their current sin to deal with. They had no ancestors but God, no junk in the pipeline, no generational curses, covenants, structures, devices or memories. None.
So yeah, Cain’s soul and body had some negative consequences from the family dynamics, but his spirit came from a place of astounding privilege, compared to yours and mine! That evens the score a bit.
Then ponder the relationship with God. There is no mention of God connecting with Cain before the memorable sacrifice. The record is murky at best, but it leans toward God being silent from the judgment on Adam until the sacrifice by Cain.
BUT, one thing is crystal clear. There was no silence after the busted sacrifice. God spoke to Cain with absolute lack of ambiguity and said, “Son, you don’t have to go down this road. You are at a dicey place in your life, but I have absolutely made a good pathway for you to walk forward on. This event does not have to define you. Choose the right path.”
And you know, that one incident kind of puts a lot of weight on one side of the scale. It is pretty hard to blame your childhood for your adult choices when God is standing at the crossroads of your life holding a sign that says, “This is the right way.”
In the end, Cain chose badly, and the Righteous Judge of the Universe sat in judgment on his actions and issued a penalty that took into account everything from conception to the act of defiance.
Copyright February 2012 by Arthur Burk