The Fifth Gift

The first thing the man and woman noticed as they walked into the hut was the old man. He was sitting on the ground with eyes closed and head tilted forward as if he had fallen asleep in that position. He looked old, but something about him suggested a vibrancy of life, like a lamp that burnt extremely bright until the last bit of fuel was consumed. They both immediately knew there was very little oil left, affirming the sense they both had over the last few days that time was short. Behind him was a small wooden altar, made of a two-foot piece of driftwood and several stones. On the left side sat a book, old and worn out from reading, and on the right, a ceramic cup. In the center stood a candle and a small metal box in front of it. The only other item in the hut was a bedroll on the ground near one of the walls. An aura of reverence hung in the air, and the couple felt it would be immoral to disturb the old man, so they sat down on the ground as quietly as possible and waited. In a few minutes, he opened his eyes. There was no hint of surprise or trace of sleep in his gaze, suggesting he had been meditating the entire time. He looked first at the man and then the woman in turn, and they felt like he was seeing into their souls. After what seemed like an eternity—though it was really only a few moments—he spoke.

“I have been waiting a very long time for you. I was not sure I could make it, but I was assured my life would linger until you came. The items you seek are ready; my job is almost done.”

“You knew we were coming?” asked the man. “How?”

“A river may flow in only one direction, but that is not the only way to swim. I have looked more upon things of the past than any other soul alive today, and it has granted me fleeting glimpses of the future. The veil grows thin between worlds as my time comes to an end, so I heard of you and was shown this moment. It is enough.”

“You heard? Who told you about us? What items? We don’t understand,” replied the woman.

The old man smiled. “I have a story to tell you, and when I am finished, you will understand.”

And this is the story he told . . .

 * * * * *

This story goes back to the start of recorded history, before civilizations and cities, before families and children, even before man and woman were created, when there was only the land and the sea and the air, and the serpent had not entered the picture. God spoke to the earth and the waters, and life came forth, plants and animals, birds and fish, bacteria and fungi, and life spread across the face of the earth like a flame on dry grass. Time had only just begun, so it moved differently back then, faster or slower, depending upon your perspective. God beheld His creation, from the microscopic life in the deepest oceans to the cosmic rifts in stellar nebula; He beheld it all, and it was all good.

God then created man and gave him the earth as a home and every animal as a friend. It was at this very beginning of man’s awareness of himself and his God, that he even then started thinking of a way to thank his Creator for what He had done for him. It was a perfect motive from an un-fallen creature, desiring an act of gratitude in return for all that was received. However, it is not a gift that we in this day would understand, for what was valued then was not what we value now. There was no rich or poor, no valuable or invaluable, so it was only the meaning and the thought, and that was enough. And so it was that he started to ponder the perfect expression of gratitude in return for his life and his home and his friends.

It was somehow in the man’s nature that while he was pondering something perfect, he noticed something lacking. As he looked over all that was, he realized he was different from the other creatures. He could move from one place to another rather quickly, so he was clearly different from the plants and flowers and trees upon the surface of the earth. He was much more like the beasts and birds and even the fish in the waters. However, of all those that moved as he moved, each had its mate, except for him. But he had no chance to become overly concerned about this, for his God knew, before the man even realized it, that it was not good for him to be alone. So, before the man could know loneliness, God put upon him a deep sleep so that he lay down by a tree and slept, and all of the nearby beasts and birds came and lay down by him. While the man slept, his God opened his side, and took from his side a bone, and closed up the place in his side. Even in his sleep, the man felt no pain from this surgery.

While the man was sleeping, God took the bone and walked to another part of the garden. It was on the bank of a river that He fashioned the bone of the man into the woman. It was thus that the first sound in the ears of the woman was the singing of the birds and the bubbling of the waters, and the first sight in her eyes was the face of her God against the background of the clear blue sky as He smiled upon her. She took the hand of her God as He raised her to her feet, and she beheld the glorious life of creation all around her. They began to walk by the river, and as the woman beheld the plants and the fish and the birds and the beasts, she turned to her God and asked if there was another like herself. It is significant that the woman had perceived by intuition the same lack that the man had realized through examination. Her God then explained that He was bringing her to meet her other half.

By this time, the man had woken up from his deep sleep. He felt that something was missing from inside him, but he could not tell what it was. He was just about to look for his God when he heard a sound of walking and of speech. One of the voices was clearly his God, but the other was different. It somehow awakened in him excitement and joy and peace and wonder all at the same time. It was as he looked toward the sound that he beheld his God coming to him through the trees, and beside him was one who was like him but different. For a brief moment, a place in his side felt warm, and then the warmth spread into his heart, and he suddenly knew that this was his other half. He saw that she was different, but somehow with those differences, she made him complete.

The woman and her God finally came to the place where the man stood. God then said to the woman, “Behold, I give you the man,” and to the man, He said, “Behold, I give you woman.” It is perhaps in their nature at the time that the woman felt it was such a solemn occasion that she did not want to say anything, but the man could not contain himself and yelled rather loudly, “WOMAN!” It should not be too surprising that their God laughed, and the woman giggled, and the man grinned. God then spoke to the man and woman, saying, “I give you this earth as your home and the animals as your friends and the plants as your food.” To the beasts and the birds and the plants, God said, “Behold, I give you the man and the woman, made in My image, to watch over you and keep you.” Then, their God left them to explore and discover.

It was as they were walking and beholding the wonderful things in creation that man decided to share with woman his desire to do something to thank God for all He had done. The woman thought on this for a few moments and then suggested giving their God a gift, for she remembered the four gifts from God, and if He gave gifts, He would certainly appreciate a gift in return. The man was astonished at the woman’s insight at this point, for he had been so focused on the gifts that he had not really thought about the action of the giving. He immediately knew that giving God a gift was the best option. The man also knew it was not within his ability to come up with a good gift all on his own, for he knew he was only half a being, so he spoke with his other half, and they pondered and whispered, trying in a wonderfully naïve way to make sure that their God did not hear what they were saying. So the two of them walked and searched and discussed their options. The man gave his input from his viewpoint, for he was a little older than the woman, and the woman gave her input from her viewpoint, for she was a little wiser in understanding the act of giving. And together, they decided to give their God a rock.

 * * * * *

“What!?” exclaimed both the man and woman at the same time. “They gave God a rock?”

“Yes,” said the old man. “They gave God a rock.”

“Was it a nice rock, like a diamond, an emerald, or something like that?” the woman asked.

“No,” replied the old man, “it was just a plain black rock.”

“Why a rock?” asked the man.

The old man smiled. “I am getting to that.”

 * * * * *

Now this might seem like nonsense now, but at the time it was very appropriate. If you think about it, nothing they could give God wasn’t from God in the first place, so nothing would be inherently less valuable than anything else. There was no concept of one thing being rarer or commoner than another, so everything had value. The man suggested giving God one of the birds, but the woman pointed out that the birds already followed Him around, and they did not technically own the birds, so that was not really a good idea. This also ruled out the beasts and the fish. The woman wanted to give God some water, but the man pointed out the practical difficulties with that idea. They discussed giving God some flowers, but it seemed wrong somehow to bring their God a gift that resulted in the death of something beautiful. Their final decision, which they both agreed was the best choice, was a rock. It is impossible for us to completely understand why they chose this, though, because to the unfallen and innocent there was a wisdom and ability to see the nature of things that we have not even come close to today. Somehow it represented a perfect symbol of who they were and what they wanted to say.

So, wrapping it in leaves and tying it with grass—which was when the bow was first invented—the man and woman gave the gift to their God. Of all that He had given to them, they gave this back and said it was no longer theirs, but this one part of all creation was His. Now, the nature of a real gift is that the giver no longer has dominion over it, but that it completely belongs to the receiver; and so it was with this gift. In their garden, by the first river, they gave the gift to their Creator. It was a beautiful act and a beautiful gift, and we all wish that the story stopped there, but it did not. Shortly after this, the man and his wife sinned and gave control of all the world and all it contained to the serpent. All that was under their oversight became under control of the serpent, and that included the whole earth—everything that man and woman had dominion over . . .

. . . Everything, that is, except for the rock. It was the one piece of this entire planet earth that was no longer under their dominion. All else was affected by the fall, just as man and woman were; but this one stone was exempted from the fall by the law of giving, which was greater than the law of possession and dominion. In a branch of the tree of life the Creator placed this gift, until the time when its use would be needed. The Creator commanded His angel to guard the tree of life, out of care for his creation—for it would be unkind to make immortal those who were so broken—and the gift remained there until the time of Noah, when a flood covered the world, the tree of life on this side of heaven was destroyed, and the rock sank to the bottom of the waters and was lost in mud for thousands of years.

 * * * * *

“It was there, after years of searching, that God led me to find the rock. He knew a time would come when you, another man and woman, would need something unfallen to save this world.”

“But, how is a rock going to help us now?” asked the man.

“The evil we face isn’t going to be stopped by hitting it with a rock!” exclaimed the woman.

“That,” replied the old man, “is another story.”