While we were away
God takes the initiative
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
God's mercy toward us is evidenced in the fact that He does not wait nor depend on us to try and clean ourselves up before we go to Him.
In our helpless state of need, when we are in the midst of our sin He initiates the restoration of the relationship. Just like in the garden, he is the initiator.