Saturday, March 04, 2006
The Wrong Apple
I was lying in bed last night. I was tired but feeling good; the little party that I do every two weeks for the "Until Uru" online community had been a lot of fun. As I loosed the reins of consciousness my thoughts turned to Adam and Eve. What, actually, did they do? The answer didn't come immediately. I know this is the stuff of a million sermons, so what's the point of plowing such well-worked ground? Well, I've learned that familiar ground is no longer seen. Take another look.
It was hard to do at the time. I'd had a migraine in the afternoon, and decided as long as I was going to have a headache I might as well do something fun, so I had some beer. That and the party were great distractions from the migraine fireworks. How did Karen know I was self-medicating for this?
Nothing got settled then. I fell asleep. This morning we resumed the conversation. What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the fruit that God had forbidden, because the enemy told them God was lying about it. "You won't surely die if you eat this. He's keeping the best from you."
The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. So, now we know good and evil. Before we'd lived in a sunny land of assuming that everything would work out. God has things in hand. Now, Adam and Eve had to figure it out for themselves. Make their living from sweat. I used to live in such a sun-filled space: life went on and no matter what upset happened things worked out. I had this semi-conscious confidence. I think God was taking care of me.
That is, of course, absurd. God didn't know me from, well, Adam. God had much more important things to do with his time than manage the affairs of one inept boy in a hick Kansas town. God was in New York someplace, working with the mighty ones. Even our church didn't expect God to do anything real.
The key step in any troubleshooting process is to find out what's really going on. Sometimes you have to sort through many conflicting signs and signals to figure out which ones actually bear on the problem you're trying to fix. How do you know when it's fixed? It works. If it doesn't work, it's still broken. Facts are your main tool. I had the facts of a life that worked out. Could be random chance, but statistics seem to favor the prepared. You reach out your hand, expecting an apple to fall into it, and many times the apple shows up. Maybe not a literal apple; you want steak, you get yesterday's bread, but something happens that assures life for another day.
Eve quit believing God's promise. So did Adam. So did I, for a time. Life got much rougher. I felt as if I had to do the driving. (A little side note here: A thought just popped into my mind that I needed to check the bread I'm warming for breakfast. I didn't think enough time had passed, so I ignored it. The thought came back: not that the time is up, but that you need to put the bread into the oven now that it's hot. Oh. God does care about little things.) My driving isn't very good. I'm trying to read the signs and keep the speed up and get through and keep going without getting lost and do all the other zillion things required and it's just exhausting and why the hell do I bother? Just park the sumbitch in the ditch and quit.
And the whisper returns. "Remember Me?" It's actually a daily process. Moment by moment I can choose which apple to eat: one that has God's breath in it, or one that I make up from cultural and other influences. God's voice is quiet because he wants me to work on listening. It's not cruelty. It's a standard storyteller's tactic that, in our world of cacaphony, isn't well received. You just can't hear things when it's much of a muchness. God's still, small voice is uniquely audible, and it has taken me 30 years to learn to hear Him.
In "The Magician's Nephew," Digory is sent to retrieve a special apple from a garden far to the west of Narnia. After he picks the apple the White Witch tells him to go ahead and eat it. He can see that she has already done so, and he's hungry! The Witch argues and argues, but he can see her face change. Yes, she will live forever after eating the stolen apple, but it will be a hard and cruel life of self-management that ends in an ugly death after a very long winter. Digory resists and takes his apple back to Aslan. The sunshine in his own life continues, and spreads to his mother and to the succeeding generations of his family.
There are songs about stolen apples, and myths going back to the beginning of time. Life is an interesting balance. What's stolen? What's a gift? Whom do I believe? Some stolen apples have been handed down for so long that they've been canonized, which is why plowing familiar ground can be a useful reality check. Belief is said to be a simple matter of brain chemicals, but it's really the most powerful force we have for changing reality.