Part of the Christmas story tells of the man and young woman God called to be the parents of Jesus. They were each rich in Godly character, entering an adventure that would take them where no other humans would ever be asked to go. They played supporting yet crucial roles in the life of Jesus, fulfilling those roles with integrity.
As my thoughts turn toward the impending year, I’m already aware that to maneuver it thoughtfully, something will be required that I do not possess within my flesh. I am learning there is a difference between character and Godly character. The former is an expression of the flesh, that while having certain merits, does not transcend the confines of this life. Godly character has an eternal component, paying dividends both now and into eternity. I cannot have that kind of character without the comprehensive influence of the Spirit of God in me; full sway… and nothing short of it.
As each of us reflects upon the past and ponders the future, I offer this post from the archives. May we own, with sober certainty, our need for God to influence thoughts, emotions, and actions. If He does, we will choose well, whatever presents in the coming year. If He is not given that place, we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves highly susceptible.
As the return of Jesus draws closer, may we be mindful of the escalating cost of operating independently of our Maker.
So when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food,
& that it was a delight to the eyes,
& that the tree was to be desired
to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate…
~ Genesis 3:6 ~
There is a way that
seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
~ Proverbs 16:25 ~
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit.
Apart from me
you can do nothing.
~ John 15:5 ~
Genesis 3 provides a lens into what humankind does when they are tempted away from what’s central. Following the creation account, it’s the very first story presented to us in scripture. It’s the very first look into human processing when we are not engaged with our Maker, and the very first look at our adversary.
Eve was not with the Lord at the time the serpent came to her, at least not in the way scripture describes their typical interaction. One wonders if that timing was not deliberate on the part of the serpent. Did God know the serpent had come to her? Was He aware of the content of that conversation? Didn’t He understand Eve’s vulnerability? Why didn’t He come to her aid when He saw her move toward peril? Why didn’t He protect her from herself, let alone her enemy? All we know for certain is that Omniscient, Omnipresent God chose not to intervene. I wonder, would God have entered that moment if He was invited to do so? But He wasn’t.
There was no precedent in humanity’s short existence for how a person might respond to any challenge of the status quo. Free will was going to get a chance to stretch its legs. It had yet to be tested. Up until this moment, there was only harmony, perfection, untainted fellowship, and freedom. All was as it was meant to be. There will never be another event in human history where we see the potential within us to handle temptation within a context of perfection. So often we naively think that we are susceptible because of our brokenness and pain. At a minimum, Genesis 3 blows up that argument once and for all. Eve had never experienced soul pain. She was physically, intellectually, and emotionally whole.
So the story begins, and Eve dialogues with her yet unrecognized adversary. She then uses her reasoning to assess and respond to this utterly unfamiliar scenario. I believe she makes a sincere effort to choose well. The text clearly reveals she brings all her finite faculties to bear. However, we know she did not utilize her most precious resource, perhaps because God was not present in a familiar way. It may not have occurred to her that God would have had something to contribute to her decision-making process. Remember, this situation had no precedent. There was no such thing as relational sickness or disharmony of any kind. In that moment, and ONLY that moment, creation and creature alike provided a perfectly untainted test-lab.
Eve begins processing. As far as we are told, her partner Adam is not interjecting, nor is the serpent, who remains silent once he has presented his temptation. She simply looks at the tree in question (the ONLY no in a sea of yeses, as one pastor puts it) and applies her virgin skills: The tree was….
good for food (a physical attraction)
a delight to the eyes (an emotional attraction)
desired to make one wise (an intellectual attraction)
There appears to be no particular struggle or inner-wrestling within Eve. She makes her assessment and then takes and eats. Sin enters the created order and enters the human condition.
Deep breath and long sigh. Do you have any trouble recognizing yourself in Eve? I don’t. C.S. Lewis calls us “daughters of Eve.” Personally, the association runs deeper than the obvious gender connection.
Two factors make the point for me. First, Eve (informed or otherwise) responded independently in the moment of her temptation and it cost her immeasurably. The second point, which I believe came into play because of her independent posture, is that she was fairly easily and fatally distracted. Her attention was effortlessly drawn away from the bounty God had provided, to the one thing forbidden to her. That combination, autonomy, and the vulnerability attached to its shirt-tail was fatal.
Autonomy, disconnectedness, willfulness, independence, detachment…. whatever descriptive word resonates, if I am in ANY posture other than that of full dependence, I become highly vulnerable. I, like Eve, will defer to my flesh, to what seems right to me, and choose accordingly. I cannot claim “undue hardship.” I have to concede this tendency lives within me regardless of past or present circumstances.
The Apostle Paul states it like this: For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Scripture is clear, this is an inner weakness I will contend with for the rest of my earthly days.
The solution doesn’t lie in becoming less weak, but in coming to terms with my weakness and reaching for God. “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This is the other side of the coin, being both familiar and profoundly relevant: “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (Note to self: that power does not manifest when I have pulled away from Him. My “old self” manifests)
I come full circle then, back to the lowest shelf, where Jesus says with vivid clarity…
“…apart from me
you can do nothing.”