Angel At Eden’s Gate

Painting by Merrill Farnsworth, 2010

Angel at Eden’s Gate

I am the angel at Eden’s gate.  I knew them, the man and the woman. I knew them before they knew what God only knows.  I knew them when they strolled through the garden with effortless grace; lips curved gently upward, eyes shining with morning light. Paradise was their playground and God was their friend. They fed one another grapes of impossibly purple hue and drank nectar from fragrant flowers.   I knew them when they romped playfully with a lion, loved with abandon, body and soul tangled in unfettered bliss. I stood unseen at the gates of Eden, a silent witness.

I was there when the serpent knocked.

“Hello, Angel.”

He was long and lean, leading with his belly, thinking to slide on by.

Sworn to guard the entrance to Eden, I blocked the way and ordered him gone without discussion.  He smiled, lipless and dry, with no intention of leaving.

“Move aside, sister. Paradise is mine.”

His cool stare chilled the air, but when he spoke, his voice was warm, delicious, golden.  He both delighted and disgusted me. I craved every intoxicating syllable, even though I felt sweet poison in his tone.

“The all knowing God does not smite me, reject me, or dismiss me.  Dear angel, how could I even exist if not for God’s hand? Let me in.  All God’s creatures belong in the garden.”

I was tempted, but not fatally. I did not have the choice to be persuaded by any will but my Lord’s.  I would guard this holy gate. I would not be moved. It was the serpent that moved, slowly and surely. He was now so close that the strange icy heat of his breath was upon my brow.

“Let… me… in.”

How long we stood there face to face I cannot tell you.  What I will confess is that I could have stood there forever locked in the dark rapture of his topaz eyes. What I will further confess is that if God had not appeared at that moment, I might have allowed the serpent into paradise.  I did not.  It was God who let him in.

I was ordered to step aside as the serpent entered Paradise.

“Poor Angel…so…innocent.”

I had assumed the garden was perfect without this disturbing creature. I would have sent him away.  Better yet, I would have destroyed him…

Silly Angel… don’t you know God prefers stories that are… complicated?

I watched the serpent weave silently among the trees when the moon was full.   He favored a tree laden with golden fruit.  The woman had eyes for this tree. She knew it was extraordinary, but was perfectly content to let it be  – until the day the serpent’s voice wrapped itself all around her.

“The fruit of this tree is delicious. More delicious than anything you’ve ever tasted. It will melt on your tongue like the sweetest honey, dripping from the honeycomb.”

I watched her face as she listened to his words. There came a certain light to her eyes. A certain tilt to her head.

Just reach out your hand… pluck it.  It’s easy.

Remembering God did not want her near this tree, she ran. But at that moment the fruit of the tree entered her dreams, and upon waking she was drawn to its branches.  The serpent was there to greet her.

“Just one bite.  It will be our secret.”

The woman had no concept of “secrets”, but the word, as he whispered it slowly, began to rise in her like a wave.  The ground beneath her was no longer steady.  She wondered why, exactly why, the fruit was forbidden. The serpent guessed her thoughts, and more words washed over her.

“Eat from this tree and you will know good from evil.  You will be like God. You will see beyond the walls of Eden. Don’t you want to see? Don’t you want to know all there is to know?”

She had never considered knowing all there was to know, but now, the world beyond Paradise crept into her imagination.  I was in awe of the questions that began to form in her mind, a mind sewn with the seeds of God’s own imagination.

“Just take one bite…”

She did, and the man took a bite, too.  The fruit, sweet in the mouth of God, was bitter in theirs. In an instant they hated their bodies.  I saw them hiding in the tall grass as first blood spilled on the ground, blood of a creature slain to clothe their shame. I saw the serpent cursed, cast down on his belly, topaz eyes trapped in the body of a worm.  To my great joy, God banished this venomous tempter from the garden forever.

“I know you don’t weep for me, but be melancholy, Angel, for the man and the woman – they’re following me out into the big bad world. And you know why… because God said so.”

So the story of the woman and the man strolling through the garden with effortless grace now ends. As they pass through the gates of Eden, I see their faces reflected in the flame of God’s eyes.

They are fierce. They know sorrow. They are beautiful.

Merrill Farnsworth


About Merrill Farnsworth

Merrill was declared a poet in 6th grade by Sister Mary McDonald and kept writing. In addition to being named an ASCAP songwriter of the year for her work with Michelle Tumes on the single, Heaven’s Heart, she has written lyrics for various artists, worked on animation projects for Sony Wonder and Columbia Pictures and written numerous stage, video and radio scripts. Her current project is a collection of stories and paintings titled Jezebel’s got the Blues…and other works of imagination (slated to be published in 2012). This work has been performed several times with an outstanding cast that includes performances by Chip Arnold, Bonnie Keen, Nan Gurley, Robert Kiefer, Jon Royal and features the blues guitar of Phil Madeira. She collaborated with Phil on his new project Mercyland, which features artists Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Shawn Mullins, The Civil Wars and others. She is also in the early stages of working with writer and actor Chip Arnold on a new musical. Along the way, Merrill has discovered the healing power of art in her own life and now integrates the arts into her work as a therapist. After earning a graduate degree in developmental psychology from Vanderbilt University in 2000, She has created Writing Circles to help others discover the healing power within their own authentic voices. Merrill has worked as a therapist in corporate, clinical and educational settings. She currently has a private practice on 21st Avenue near Hillsboro village, where she works with groups and individuals. For more information contact her at or visit -- Merrill Farnsworth, LPC, MHSP Convent Place (formerly St. Bernard's Convent) 2021 21st Avenue South, 430 Nashville, TN 37212
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