Genesis 3:1-8 (CEV)
The First Sin
The snake was sneakier than any of the other wild animals that the Lord God had made. One day it came to the woman and asked, “Did God tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?”
The woman answered, “God said we could eat fruit from any tree in the garden, except the one in the middle. He told us not to eat fruit from that tree or even to touch it. If we do, we will die.”
“No, you won’t!” the snake replied. “God understands what will happen on the day you eat fruit from that tree. You will see what you have done, and you will know the difference between right and wrong, just as God does.”
The woman stared at the fruit. It looked beautiful and tasty. She wanted the wisdom that it would give her, and she ate some of the fruit. Her husband was there with her, so she gave some to him, and he ate it too. Right away they saw what they had done, and they realized they were naked. Then they sewed fig leaves together to make something to cover themselves.
Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the Lord God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees.
Oooooof!! Yet another heavy text from the start of Genesis – at least, millenia of religious theol-duggery have MADE this passage heavy! It’s like a ticking time-bomb buckaroo-donkey, so much stuff hung on it that you have to tiptoe around it veeeeeery careful for fear you will set it off! Where to even begin?? Well – it’s 11:31pm on Friday night – so you’ll forgive me if I don’t grapple with every theological nuance that has been injected into this text over the years. Today I have been pondering the EFFECT of the man and the woman eating that fruit. After they eat it they are ashamed of their nakedness and they hide themselves from God. To me it reads like a classic “loss of innocence” trope – an awakening. It’s not at all unlike a coming-of-age:
baby – happy to be naked – knows nothing of shame or guilt or guile – has nothing to hide… teenager – suddenly has secrets – locks doors – hides things under the mattress – has a fb/instagram/tumblr account or a diary that would be distressing for mum and dad to read… grown up – leaves the nest and feels that an era has past – comes home and finds their bedroom has been turned into mum’s crafting room…
Maybe this is a story about humankind “coming of age”, losing our “innocence”. It’s a good thing, it’s what has to happen, but how often do we look back and crave a simpler, less complicated life – a life where we didn’t have that knowledge of “good and evil”, a life where we simply had no concept of shame or guilt or unworthiness…
Maybe God grieves too… I write this as I celebrate my eldest child getting a job and preparing to actually leave home and get married. I’m excited for him, but at the same time I don’t want him to go.
You don’t really have to worry about a baby loving you, or a toddler – they do – largely because you feed them! Kids growing up and leaving home – the time when they get the first real chance to spread their wings and then choose whether or not they are still part of your life – that’s a lot more scary and a lot more emotionally risky. If I let this bird out of the cage – will it ever come back?
Maybe that’s partly what this story is about. The risk God takes in letting his children go their own way and desperately watching to see if they will ever turn to look back.
Some of the most intimate and startling language about God’s love for his children is in Hosea chapter 11:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But as the saying goes, “The more they were called, the more they rebelled.” They never stopped offering incense and sacrifices to the idols of Baal.
I took Israel by the arm and taught them to walk. But they would not admit that I was the one who had healed them. I led them with kindness and with love, not with ropes. I held them close to me; I bent down to feed them.
But they trusted Egypt instead of returning to me;
It’s heartbreaking to read! Yet that’s what I hope this passage is about. For far too long it has been held hostage and strangled by oppressive dogma about “original sin” and other similar nonsense. Let it be this for you tonight – a heartfelt story of God’s love for his wandering children who have grown up. God knows you, God loves you, God’s heart is in his mouth as he lets you live your life on your own terms and in your own way – hoping against hope that you will look back and smile, keep in touch…