Fallen-ness

Genesis 2:25-3:15

"And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’“ But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”"

Prayer – God of grace – we hear this story of creation, this story of fallen-ness and we are perplexed, we are a little uncomfortable, we are wondering what this all means. Part of our questioning seems to arise from our sense of worthiness, our sense of being good enough, which is asked by the serpent, but may have just as easily been that quiet voice within. Remind us this day, that as your beloved children, we are made in your image and our worth is founded, grounded and maintained in our identity as your beloved – amen.

Perhaps one of the most painful, most damaging stories in all of scripture is found right in the very first book of the Bible – the story of humankind’s ‘fall from grace.’  I suspect that many of you, like me, have wrestled with this story of ‘original SIN’ and how it has impacted the life and perhaps mistrust of the church. Far too many theologians have focused a great deal of energy and writing and pontificating about SIN and humankind’s fall from grace.  I don’t particularly like this story and that is why I decided I needed to ponder, reflect, chew on and read it time and time again.

So part of my struggle with this entire idea of ‘original sin’, fallen from grace, however you want to theologize it, is that the church has jumped on this one issue much as our political parties identify a single issue to take a stand.  The church has made its living on SIN, and has focused much less on original blessing where God made humankind and evaluated us as ‘good.’ And so our original blessedness gets very little play in theology and the church today. Why? It’s just not as sexy I guess.  And the church has become the gatekeeper as to who is good enough, and who isn’t.

A couple of more thoughts before I offer you some of my reflections on this passage and what it has meant and what is could mean for us and the church.  One thing I noted as I re-read this entire creation passage for the umpteenth time is that God’s comment on the creation of both man and woman is that they are good.  Good, not great, not perfect, but good (enough)! Inasmuch as humanity was never perfect, the idea of a ‘Fall’ is both lazy thinking and absurd. Human beings, Adam and Eve, were imperfect from the start, indeed, their imperfection makes it all the more natural and likely that they would fail, fall, disobey, wonder just how good they had to be.

A second thought about the creation stories is that they leave God looking pretty un-godly.  I mean do we want a God who throws down on us for being human? Is that the kind of God that reflects grace and love?  So with those particular thoughts in mind I would like to offer you some of my reflections on this ‘fall’ and what it means to be fallen.

One of things that I realized as I was reading through this text yet again is that the ‘fall’ occurred before the forbidden fruit was ever picked from the tree.  For me, and maybe for you, the fall occurred when the serpent convinced Eve that she just wasn’t good enough, that she didn’t have the knowledge of the difference between good and evil.  Her whole downfall, if you will, was accepting that somehow she just wasn’t good enough. She was imperfect, she was less than, she was just not quite good enough. Eve and Adam both bought into the message offered by a serpent, life, or even internally, that they weren’t good enough as they were created and so they had to ‘bite’ into some knowledge to know better.  And where has it gotten us?

How many of us have wrestled with those broken feelings of not being good enough?  I would go so far as to suggest that the whole, ‘good enough’ thing, is in fact our human fallen-ness, our original sin.  Whether the serpent was real, a metaphor for life, an internal message, or a myth, I believe that all of us, at one time or another has had that sometimes overwhelming sense that “I am just not good enough.”  Whether it was at home, in school, on the playground, the ballet studio, the soccer field, the war zone, the church – all of us at some time our another have felt as if we are unworthy – not good enough. Unworthy of God’s love and affection, our parent’s love and affection, our friends and family’s love and affection, our children’s love and affection, our work colleague’s love and affection, the church’s love and affection.  We have ‘believed’ the external and/or internal messages we have received that we just aren’t good enough, and that is our SIN. That is humankind’s fallen-ness.

And it was out of that place of brokenness, fallen-ness, that Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit.  It was out of that sense of not being good enough that they fell further, it was their downfall, if you will.  And as they learned, as we all have learned, there are consequences when we feel like we aren’t good enough. Life is harder.  Normal everyday occurrences like work and birth become more difficult if we believe that we somehow just don’t measure up. Our world has become the messenger of measuring up, whether it is the size of your bank balance, the number of bedrooms in your house, your SMART TV, your cell phone, everyday life has a way of continually throwing the questions, the doubts, the uncertainties – are we good enough; do we measure up?  And that question, that doubt, that uncertainty brings real consequences to our lives – we become over-functioners, we become depressed, we become even more of a ‘less than’ when we believe the powerful messages of the external world that asks if we are good enough.

Much of what the church has taught us about being good enough leaves us falling far short and God being continually disappointed in us as human beings created in God’s image.  The church has professed this belief and has done so to exert some sense of control, and perhaps salvation, rather than accepting our eternal blessing and belovedness that comes with our birth.  The church has chosen to keep us questioning each and every day whether we are worthy of God’s love and grace, God’s mercy and peace. That dogma just doesn’t work for me, and to be honest with you, it hasn’t worked for the church either.

I’m not trying to suggest that we don’t have human challenges, human frailties, normal human questions of worth.  That is all part of being human. BUT, and I don’t typically use that word, today I am, BUT, we are not so broken, so fallen, so sinful, that we are ir-redeemable.  God created us as good, perhaps knowing, trusting that our spiritual journey’s as human beings was going to be difficult at best. And like Richard Rohr suggests in his book, Falling Upward, “we grow much more spiritually by doing it wrong than by doing it right.”  Carl Jung also suggested that a fall must precede growth. Perhaps God created us good enough and somehow knew that our life journey, our spiritual journey was all about finding our way to recognizing, accepting, believing, trusting that we are indeed good enough.  And once we could recognize, accept, believe and trust that we are good enough, then we are free to live wholly and holy lives.

If you take nothing else from our time together today, take this, I am enough. You are enough. We all are enough. Not perfect, but good enough and as such, we are each and every one of us, worthy of God’s love, grace, mercy and peace – thanks be to God – amen.