(By Kevin Beck)
Inexplicably, it's called "the fall of man." Someone along the way read the narrative in Genesis 1 through 3 in terms of humanity dropping from exalted place into an abyss of depravity, corruption, and wickedness.
Nothing demands forcing this customary framework onto the story. It could be read in several other ways that have little or nothing to do with a fall from grace. In fact, the traditional reading of the story leaves little room for any grace. Adam and Eve were planted in a garden without their consent, given an arbitrary rule, and underwent expulsion when they dared to explore their curiosity. Far from a fall from grace, the usual approach to the Genesis account has Adam and Eve living in a graceless world of one-and-done.
Rather than a fall from grace, Genesis can be understood in terms of a fall toward grace. Moving from a world-order shaped by precise behavioral regulations, God pushes humanity toward a deeper self-realization by empowering them to make choices that allows them to experience consequences that will teach them who and what they are as bearers of the divine likeness. The plot reaches its climax with Christ who lays down the sword, picks up the cross, and unveils the God of love.
We have been graced with the blessing of Christ consciousness because we can make choices in the fashion of Christ. "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him" (Philippians 2:4-9).
Not simply a statement concerning the metaphysical make-up of Jesus, Paul's instruction to the Philippians reminds us to make wise choices that gracefully take others into consideration -- unlike Adam and Eve.
If there was a fall from grace in Genesis, it occurred when the man and woman answered God's questions. "Adam, did you eat of the tree I told you to avoid?" The man replied, "The woman you gave me took from the tree and gave it to me. It's her fault for taking the fruit and your fault for making her in the first place. I'm an innocent victim here." Not too graceful on Adam's part.
Eve was just as graceless. "Don't look at me. The serpent tricked me. He asked me a question and got me all confused." She held an animal responsible for her actions.
Adam and Even both fell from grace -- not from an idyllic state of innocence, but from a spirit of gracefulness. By seeking blame, shifting the focus away from their choices, and hiding from their consequences, Adam and Eve clumsily fumbled away charity and dignity. Can you imagine how the story might have unfolded differently had Adam and Eve displayed slightly more grace?
And the Lord called unto the man and said, "Where are you?" The man answered, "I'm over here. I was ashamed of myself because I was naked." The Lord replied, "Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree I told you to stay away from?" The man confessed. "Yes. I ate. My bad. I'll try not to let it happen again." And the Lord asked, "What about the woman? Did she eat too?" Adam answered, "Look, we don't have to drag Eve into this do we?" Unwilling to let her husband take the blame, Eve spoke up. "Here I am. Yes. I ate. I know now that I shouldn't have."
Instead of falling gracefully, it's common to blame. Embarrassment breeds awkwardness. In those moments of inelegance, we often stumble for justifications. Someone must be guilty because I didn't experience my desired outcome. Therefore I hold my parents, the weather, my spouse, my kids, my DNA, fate, karma, my coworkers, religion, the past, religion, a different nationality, the government, corporations, the universe, Adam and Eve, and God responsible.
Falling gracefully involves more than accepting personal responsibility for what we consider to be failures. This stance can emerge from undue pride, and it can cause unhelpful guilt. Falling gracefully entails objectively recognizing your choices that contributed to the matter and the complex dynamics that were beyond your control. By studying yourself in the context of the situation, you can ask, "What can I learn right now?"
We're entering a new year, and this is the time when people make resolutions. Turn over a new (fig) leaf. Be a better, kinder, smarter, more diligent, healthier person. Perhaps you'll make progress toward your goals. Perhaps not. If you fail along the way to reaching your goals, accept that what we call "failure" is integral to life. Extend this grace to yourself, and you will create room for treating others with similar grace.
When you fall, fall gracefully. Consider a snowflake descending to the earth on a still winter night. No one blames it for falling. It floats calmly, elegantly, serenely. Be the snowflake, and your fall will bring grace and beauty to the world.
Food for thought ... I love looking at a familiar thing in a new light.
Show us *Your* perspective, Papa ... how does this all fit with Your plan..?