Just One Bite

“Did God really say that?” the voice mocked.

It was the reddest apple the woman had ever seen before. The sunlight twinkled and danced of its ruby and unblemished skin. The shape was perfect, as if it had been carved by angels. The size of it was impressive too. It was so much larger than any other piece of fruit she had eaten before. It felt powerful to hold. There was an obvious significance to this forbidden fruit and she couldn’t resist the idea of tasting its juicy core.

“It’s not going to hurt you.” The voice taunted again. “God just knows that the moment you eat it, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be like God!”

It was just one bite. What could it hurt? She was hungry anyway. In the grand scheme of things, could one little bite really do any harm?

“Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, and there he placed the man he had made. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”           (Genesis 2:8-10)

The creation story has been on my mind a lot lately. It has to be one of, if not the, most popular bible stories. It’s the first. It’s the beginning. It is the snowball that sets this whole avalanche of human history in motion. God says, “Don’t do it.” The devil says, “Do it.” Eve does it. The meaning is pretty simple: God gives humans guidelines to start a relationship with Him, people give into temptation, and God spends the rest of eternity trying to win us back.

Over the past two weeks, as I’ve been perusing various versions and translations of the story, each one leaves me with the same question: “Why does Eve do it?” I think one of the problems with understanding this story is the way we look at it. From Sunday School on, this story is all about temptation. While temptation is definitely a prevailing theme, it also speaks to identity.

I heard a speaker on the radio the other day saying, “I think we sin when we forget who we are.” As humans we want an identity. We want to belong. So as a society, we invent words (labels, as Terry Hershey has taught us) that we can use to build an identity. We force ourselves to do things that fit how we want to be. We surround ourselves by people that make us feel good about who we want to be. We devote ourselves to jobs, hobbies, and activities that reflect what we want to be.

Who we think we are is really important to us. So much so, we don’t even realize how much of our “identity” is totally built on society. Words like popular. Smart. Athletic. Professional. Masculine. Beautiful. The expectations that are put on us everyday by parents, friends, teachers, coworkers, mentors, spouses, the media, ourselves, etc. all contribute to the identities we carry around.

In reality though, does any of that stuff matter? Does how we act, who we spend time with, or what we do really reflect who we are?

The reality is “who we are” is already determined by “whose we are.” If Eve had realized that her hunger for identity, her hunger for control, her hunger for love, could only be filled by turning to God, maybe the story would have a different ending.

But like Eve—no matter how many times we hear the stories, no matter how many times we sing the songs and say the prayers and take notes during the sermons, no matter what we believe—we usually cling to our own identity. We take another bite and we remain lost and in need of a savior.

“A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The second branch, called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10-14)

Adam and Eve, the Tree, the “forbidden fruit,” the snake, and the garden all get a lot of attention in the creation story. But this list of rivers is also included there. Back on Ash Wednesday (when this story first grabbed my interest) I sort of skimmed these verses, dismissing them because they were full of big Hebrew words that were hard to pronounce. But as I’ve read them in different translations, they’ve started to stand out to me more and more.

Having done a lot of hiking and camping over the years, I’ve seen the important role rivers play in the ecosystem. They bring in nutrients and life for the trees that surround them. The roots of a tree will actually grow towards a river in order to take in all of the energy it provides. Rivers also wash away any waste or toxins that keep the trees from growing and thriving.

The river brings energy and washes away waste. The trees don’t do anything. They just live, and grow, and thrive.

As we look at the Garden that God is creating among us, we are the trees and He is the river. We aren’t expected to do or be anything. We don’t need to care about our identity any more than a tree needs to worry if it’s an oak or a pine. We just have to make sure our roots are growing towards God so that we can live and thrive.

If we let God feed our hunger for identity; if we let Him quench our thirst for love; we just might find ourselves living in Eden.

Zach Herzog

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