Today I want to talk about the fall. It is not just something that Adam and Eve did, but something that we all have done. The Bible presents us these stories to teach us about ourselves. It is not enough for us to know what happened back then, but to understand that it is still happening in each one of us. For too long we have read the Old Testament and thought to ourselves, “well that was the problem with religion back then,” and not seeing it being played out in our own demoninations and churches.
Adam and Eve present us a pattern. The pattern will be repeated again and again throughout the scripture. The pattern of falling and getting back up. The English mystic, Julian of Norwich said, “first the fall, then the recovery from the fall, and both are the mercy of God.” It is in falling that we learn everything that matters spiritually. It will happen again and again with Job, the prophets Jeremiah and Jonah, with the entire nation of Israel, and most spectacularly with Christ on the cross. It is our story. It is THE story.
The evil one, as a snake, plants the seeds of suspicion in the mind of Eve. It unravels the relationship between Eve and Adam, and with God. They eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and “their eyes where opened.” They looked and saw a split universe. Some call it the “subject – object split.” It happens when you see yourself apart from the things around you. When the things and people in your life become separate “things.”
It happens to all of us in late childhood. We all must leave the garden. We all eat of the Tree of Knowledge and receive the “wound of Knowledge.” We get suspicious of ourselves and others. We learn doubt, and start to feel alienated.
Alienated people doubt in the goodness of the universe. They doubt their own goodness and the goodness of others. They doubt God. Being naked is the perfect metaphor of this new way since of awareness of themselves being separate and cut-off. We all have it, that deep sense of being inadequate, insecure, separate, and shameful. It is the human condition. The doctrine that teaches us this is called “Original Sin.”
The tragedies of the Shakespear and the Greeks all point out that there is a flaw deep down inside us. St. Paul seems to confirm this in his letter to the Romans. What the doctrine of Original Sin is trying to tell us is that we are not responsible for this flaw. The word “sin” implies guilt, but that isn’t what the doctrine is teaching us. It is saying in fact that you are not guilty of it, but that you must recognize it, because all people suffer from it.
In that sense it should be a comfort. It should help you be more patient and empathetic with people. We all share this same wound. Original Sin simply names it, so that it won’t scandalize you when it shows itself. It sets the stage for compassion and honesty right at the beginning.
There is no medicine for the sense of shame that we feel except for someone who loves us anyway. Someone who loves us despite our nakedness, and maybe even because of it. God saves us, because He can love us. He tells us, “Who told you that you where naked?” He creates doubt, but in the other way.
God is now shown in a caring, compassionate, and feminine light. He sews clothes for them and covers their nakedness. This is the promise of a caring nurturing God who wants to take away their shame. God loves us, and in loving us, He not only gives Himself to us, He gives us back to ourselves. That’s what love does. It heals us and makes us who we were supposed to be. That is salvation. Not just going to Heaven after we die, but living it out here.