“It’s just not fair!” The 13-year-old sitting across the table from me wore a face of frustration and confusion as we discussed the concept of original sin. “If Eve and Adam were the ones who committed original sin,” she argued, “then why am I punished? I didn’t eat the apple!”
She poses a great question, one that we debate every year at youth nights. Middle school youth have a hard time understanding the concept of original sin. And let’s admit it. It is something us adults have a hard time grasping as well.
These 13-year-olds make me think about the fall of man and challenge me to go deeper into the garden. That is where I find myself in my quiet time this week. How does the fall of man relate to me personally? Sure, I understand that I sin because of it. But how does that specific moment in human history impact my daily life?
When I was younger, I always thought of Eve as a person who was tricked. She was deceived into believing a lie and because she was tricked; she unknowingly made a bad decision that caused the downfall of us all.
Because she was silly enough to believe a lie from a talking snake, she wasn’t quite so guilty. Therefore, the devil was a better liar than she was a sinner.
But I think I give Eve a little too much benefit of the doubt. Although the devil did lie by telling Eve she wouldn’t die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he did give her a valid choice. She had a choice between depending on God or doing things her way. She had a choice between trusting that God would provide for her or taking something for herself.
In his lie, the devil merely took away the consequence of the choice by telling her that she wouldn’t die, but he still presented her with a choice that made her choose between herself and God. And we all know what happened: she chose herself.
By taking the apple, she put her own desires above God’s. When she chose the apple, she was saying that she no longer wished to be part of God’s great plan for her life, she wanted to do things her way. (Oh, and don’t worry. I didn’t forget about Adam, but that's for a whole different post…)
So, what Eve passed along to us is obvious. We naturally want to choose our own desires above God’s. We struggle with putting our desires aside for the needs of others.
This fundamental choice is one I struggle with on a daily basis. Do I take time to pray or do I sit in front of the TV and escape for a few minutes? Do I truly listen to my husband vent about his day or do I smile and nod while I am busy with another task? Do I take time to help my son build his Lego race car for the millionth time or do I tell him I need to fold the mountain of laundry on the dining room table?
All these things are little ways I choose my own desires over the needs of others. And trust me, that is just the beginning. My whole life is a struggle between doing things my way or God’s way. And I thank God daily for his patience and mercy as I continually learn these lessons of trust and love. I pray I live long enough to finally figure it out.
But there is hope! While we inherit the original sin of Adam and Eve, we don’t have to be trapped by it. Jesus came down from heaven and showed us what real love is. And in his life, death and resurrection, he provides us with freedom from original sin.
Through Jesus in the sacraments, we are washed clean. The relationship with God that Adam and Eve lost is once again available to us. But how do we do it? How do we let go of our desires and then find God’s?
I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions, but I can point to someone who can shed some light on the subject: Mary. Our Catholic faith teaches us that Mary was born without original sin. She was given that grace because she is the mother of our Lord, Jesus. So we can look at her life as an example of how to live.
Like Eve, Mary was given a choice. Through the Angel Gabriel, God asked Mary to be His mom. She had the choice between living the life she had planned for herself or living the life God desired her to have. She chose God. In fact, she went a step further: she made the desires of God her own. She didn’t have any desires apart from God, even when God’s desires pointed to the cross.
The choice is ours. Do we want to be daughters of Eve or daughters of Mary? Do we want to believe the lies of the devil or the promises of God? Do we want to take what we can from the world and live life according to our terms, or do we give what he have to God and let him shape our lives?
God gives us each new day as an opportunity to choose him. The great lie the devil wants us to believe is that we have to give up something spectacular in order to gain God and that choice will leave us sad and empty. But that is not what happens.
When we give up our lives and make the desires of God our own desires, God makes our lives spectacular. There is no greater joy than living the life God desires for us. He wants us to live it, so much so that he died for us so that we can live it. All we have to do is stop reaching for the apple, trust God and follow Jesus.
What are the apples in your life? What are the lies that tempt you to take that apple? What is one thing you can surrender to the Lord so that you can walk closer with Jesus this Lent?
Copyright 2014 Lori Miller
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