I Wrestled with the Lord this Morning
I wrestled with the Lord this morning.
I was thinking about the Biblical claim that one mistake, one tiny mistake, is blamed for every ounce of death and pain I see in the world.
Over the past month I have seen families who have lost children. I have seen violence, injustice, and need. It has broken my heart to watch it all.
But when I cry out to heaven because everything is askew, praying for relief, asking why He allowed the world to become so distorted, I am told the fault is our own.
I am told that all sorrow, disease, death, genetic mutation, and war lead back to a single bite of fruit swallowed by a naked Mesopotamian matriarch.
Beyond this, there is hell to consider. One three-second mistake made by a strange woman forever ago condemns every person I know, and every person I do not, and when I let that roll around, it feels unfair to me. It always does.
I imagine my child eating a cookie that he was told to leave alone. What would I do to him?
Or when a stranger steals my parking spot, how do I respond?
I am accustomed to minor offenses.
And when real hate tickles the back of my throat as I look into pictures of horrors done by Islamic terrorists, I remember that I am commanded to love my enemies and give myself for for them. I force myself to remember that these were once seven-year-old boys trained to murder. I scrape the insides of my soul for enough empathy to believe that we are human together, and that there is hope yet.
But Eve took one single bite of fruit and God let all hell break loose.
Maybe this is easy for you to believe, but it is not easy for me. It grabs my shoulders and shakes them. It forces strong questions to the surface.
"Lord, if You are omniscient, didn't You see this coming? Why didn't You make us stronger?"
"Lord, if I can move without letting every domino fall after a single betrayal why can't You..."
and then an accusation...
"Too severe. All of this is too severe. I would not have been so harsh as this."
I was born in the age of human magnificence, and I expect to pick through Divinity like a junk drawer, throwing away dirty erasers and twist ties, discarding whatever seems bizarre or absurd, determining what is obsolete, organizing what is useful into plastic boxes.
I expect to pull out the civilized, winsome commands and push those tidy bits into sermon series glued together by three bullet points. "How to Love your Wife." "How to Raise Happy Kids." "How to Save the World."
I expect Christianity to be pleasant.
But the Fall is something else entirely. Something wild. Something offensive.
One mistake is made by one human being, and while God continues to make human beings individually, knitting each one together in a billion billion wombs, He makes them knowing they deserve hell forever and ever.
It makes me feel like I've fallen off a swing.
I have simple friends who take it as it is. I envy them sometimes.
I have other friends who have looked at the equation and declared it utter nonsense.
I can do neither.
After anger, frustration, despair ... another feeling comes.
It is something like fear, but it is different, too.
It is like looking into Hubble pictures until your knees grow weak, because you have somehow forgotten how much is out there.
It is like listening to music written halfway around the world on a strange scale. You close your eyes and trace those alien intervals. Your insides ache, because while it is foreign, it is also alive.
It is like being a taxidermist, smoking a cigarette, listening to AM radio, sticking my knife mindlessly into the belly of a dead lion, only to watch as the thing quickens, leaps to his feet, and roars.
I shake my fist against the preposterous suggestion that humankind is born guilty, and then it blasts me back against a brick wall like a fireman's hose.
It is a dangerous thing to step up to a living God. Every leash I throw around His neck snaps.
Arguments fall through my fingers like sand while I let my raw spirit engage with the Divine.
In His presence I can see the impulses of my heart. The cancer has been passed down.
"Eve don't you want to be like God?" the serpent asked.
And she did. And so do I. And so do all of us. It is in our bones to deify ourselves.
But if I am quiet, there is also a faint memory, a memory passed down and down and down, of what it was like walk in the cool of the day in the presence of my Creator. I can feel what was taken from me. I have missed it all my life.
That void left a mark. An irreconcilable hunger.
I have lived all my days in silence, longing for sound.
And if I will persist, not running away from mystery but into it, I can begin to see how it wasn't just a bite of a single piece of fruit.
It was choosing independence over marriage. It was choosing mistrust over communion. It was choosing cynicism over intimacy. It was choosing to divorce ourselves from Him.
It was choosing the hells we still choose, the same hell we blame Him for: autonomy.