Recently I was mowing and listening to Conversing, Fuller Theological Seminary’s podcast. The chief topic of the episode, designing a well-lived life, fit nicely into all the nooks and crannies of my brain,
but it was Dave Evans’ offhand telling of Adam and Eve’s story that knocked the breath out of me.
Those of us who know the story remember that it’s the humans eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that causes the whole Eden gig to come unstitched. Which seems extremely straightforward: we don’t get to know what God knows. (Nods.) Watch out for trying to be the ultimate arbiter of good, or evil. Sure, makes sense.
But what Evans commented was: our original sin was—and continues to be—control. Being in control.
Ohhhhhhh, I see it. And, more importantly, feel it.
The knowledge we so desperately hunger for isn’t future-telling, per se, or assessing some thing (event, choice) and knowing, “Yep!” or “Nope.” It’s to control what happens to us. When I make this choice, thus and thus and thus will follow, and I will navigate all of it like so. I will not be surprised. I will be able to dodge any outcomes I don’t want… or see through those outcomes to the long-term benefit they may bring.
That is what it means to behave as if we were God. That is the Knowledge that only God holds: control of all the elements of our lives. Each time we close our hand a little tighter on the future, each plan we claim to carve out of stone tosses us right back among Eden’s shrubberies, looking for really big leaves to cover ourselves with.
Perhaps that’s what happened to Eve and Adam, too. Once they bit, they were no longer living moment by moment. They suddenly understood the wideness of the future…and how little they could see ahead. How likely they were to blunder. How foolish they had been to give up the clear present-ness of their prior life, and how nevertheless they would never be able to (fully) return.
God would see the worry on their faces where it had never been before.
In my lawful-good alignment,original sin has always been an abstract truth. I see the Law, and also see our human inability to consistently, perfectly follow it. (I mean the wider Law of God, not simply the Ten Commandments. Though “do not covet” remains a trial in this consumer culture!)
But wanting to order things well, so that I’m prepared for what’s up ahead? Wanting to know, to control my destiny? That’s not abstract for me. That sin lives right in my core, and is my constant struggle. I am stung, as Eve was stung, and must bear the burden of always knowing that I never will know.
And practicing opening my sweaty hands wide, to let the butterfly of future events rest on my palms.