Traditional theology associates our earliest ancestor with original sin. In all fairness, we should associate him with original growth as well, for without any model or map to follow, Adam broke new ground. God did the creating, but Adam had to do the living. He who had not participated in his own creation had to contribute to his life. As far as Genesis 2:7 knows, Adam was born full grown, but he had to do his own maturing. Therefore, instead of studying Adam’s life from the typical perspective of wanting to know how God created, let us consider his biography from the perspective of how, under God, Adam’s character was developed.
1. Adam developed character by enjoying God’s presence.
“In the Garden” is a sentimental hymn that is a favorite of many. Adam could have written it:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And he walks with me and he talks with me,
And he tells me I am his own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
None other had ever before known the joy Adam felt as he walked with God in close communion. If we envy Adam anything at all, it is that. There in that garden, as sunlight quietly made its way through the branches of the trees, Adam was able to live in direct relationship with God. Apparently, the two of them walked and talked as we might walk and talk together today. Adam heard the voice of God speaking and saw the face of God smiling. He knew first-hand the holiness and the love of God. Along the way, Adam found his soul, the part of him that was like God and which could grow closer to God. What a moment that was in history, when humanity first found its soul!
Have you found yours? God gives us a soul, and from that point on we have the joy of discovering just what it is that we have.
For now, let us understand that a fundamental task of developing character is spending time with God in worship and prayer in a way that leads to the discovery of the soul.
2. Adam developed character by making peace with suffering.
Close upon the heels of experiencing the joy of God’s presence, Adam must have felt the pain of God’s absence. I rather suspect that, in this, he was much like Christ upon the cross; he who had experienced God’s presence so intimately must have felt God’s absence most severely. You who live alone know that home never feels quite as empty as it does right after company leaves. That is when it feels its emptiest. So it must have been for Adam in his new and untried life. God’s presence could make him swell with joy, but when God stepped away the garden became emptier. Just as Adam was the first to see who God is, he was the first to wonder where God was, and feel the pain of being left alone.
Genesis says very little so we have to guard against saying too much. Even so, I think the record is that there were two times Adam suffered greatly. The first was when he and his wife were thrown out of paradise; the other was when one of their sons killed their other son. The first was a suffering they brought upon themselves; the other was one they could not control. The first meant that God had turned His back on them; the other made them feel as though God might not care. In any event, I believe both forms of Adam’s suffering changed his whole outlook on the life he was living and the God he was serving.
A fundamental task of developing character is facing suffering. It is not something that needs to be sought out; it is something that comes into our lives. Like every Adam and every Eve who has lived, you have a choice of whether you will come cut of your suffering situation with a character that is larger or smaller than the one you went in with. Suffering can either help make your character or it can break it. Unable to avoid suffering, Adam developed his character by making the peace he could with that suffering.
3. Adam developed character by putting things in perspective.
Thinking about how morning may have first broken upon the earth, we sometimes sing
Sweet the rain’s new fall
Sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dew-fall
On the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
Of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness
Where [God’s] feet pass
So, for us, the garden Adam knew would have a pristine and gentle attractiveness.
To Adam, however, it was all mystery, all profundity. No doubt much of it was frightening, too. He had no experience to draw upon. Unlike us, he had never seen a garden before. To him, it was raw, wild and unknown. But then Adam was given the privilege of naming the creatures of the garden. In creating the heavens and the earth, God brought order out of chaos. By naming the animals, Adam brought his own order to the world, and so began to make sense out of the world. By putting things into perspective, he found his place in the world and was able to begin making his way through the world.
Here again is a fundamental task of developing character: we have to get things into perspective. A whole world comes at you now. It comes with its singing birds and hissing snakes, its opportunities and its temptations. Much of what comes at you is demanding, deafening and dangerous. But, like Adam, you can have dominion over the earth. You are the steward of all that comes your way. You can name how it all shall be viewed. You shall decide what is to be important, worthy, avoided, sought out. Indeed, you have to take what comes; but, under God, you have the freedom and responsibility to put it into perspective.
4. Adam developed character by coming to terms with himself.
After the Fall, Adam and Eve discovered they were naked, and they were ashamed. It was not a matter of being bare and ashamed of the body; it was a matter of having sinned and being naked before the Lord. The issue is not that Adam and Eve saw each other nude; the issue is that Adam and Eve each saw themselves in the raw. Earlier, as he named all the animals that came his way, Adam may have been impressed by all that he could do to achieve dominion over the earth. Now, after sinning, he was ashamed of what he could be.
In this, the history of the First Man corresponds with the biography of the Prodigal Son. That Prodigal did not set out for a pig pen, but there he came to himself. There he discovered who he really was in spite of all that he wanted to be. He ran into himself headlong and was not proud of what he saw.
In full measure, that is part of the development of any character. Adam faced it, and so do you. In spite of all you want to be, you are still coping with what you are. The way a person handles that battle has much to say about how one’s character will grow.
God invented life, but Adam cooperated in inventing living. God breathed into Adam the breath of life, but Adam helped take the next breath. God gave Adam his shape, but Adam shared in shaping his own character.
From one point of view, there is no history that is any more ancient than that. From another point of view, there is no truth more contemporary than that. Your life, your living, your personality, your character, is every bit as new, untried, and pliable as Adam’s. God has breathed into you the breath of life. After that, under God, you have Adam’s task of taking it from there and developing yourself.
The opportunity and responsibility are yours. Develop your character Adam’s way. Enjoy God’s presence and discover your soul. Make such peace as you can with suffering. Put things into perspective, and, as you come to terms with yourself, look to God for peace.

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