Before He Eats the Apple

My son likes to play with the older kids in the neighborhood. Several times in the last month, I've watched as those older children tried to insult, pick on, or otherwise demean him, and he continued to play with them, thinking nothing of it. As an example, two of the older children like to run off behind a tree whispering, trying to make my son concerned that they are talking about him or planning something in secret. My son, who is too young to get it, simply runs around the tree and keeps playing with them, unfazed by their efforts. He is still too naive to be bothered by psychological bullying.

Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve, right? The famous story of Eve being tempted to eat the "apple" is found in Genesis 3. Many refer to this story in Genesis 3 as "the fall;" that is, the story of humanity's fall from perfection to sinfulness. However, it seems that the story is much more one of humanity's premature growth from naivete to awareness.

The fruit (not identified as an apple) that Eve is persuaded to eat by the serpent (not identified as Satan) is said to be from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Adam and Eve eat the fruit and it says "their eyes were opened" and "they realized they were naked." In the serpent's temptation, he never lies but merely manipulates the truth. He suggests to them that they would not literally or immediately die (which turned out to be true), and he revealed to them the reason that God didn't want them to eat of it (God had not shared the reason but had only threatened punishment). At the end of the chapter, God laments this new knowledge that Adam and Eve have gained, and consequently locks up the secrets of eternal life and throws away the key: "[Mankind] must not be allowed to...take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22). It's a very profound and intriguing point. This narrative in Genesis 3 tells the story of a God who didn't want human beings to come out of a child-like naivete to see the world with insight...at least, not that soon. They were created naive (for lack of a better word), and gained the knowledge of good and evil when God didn't want them to.

My son has not yet eaten many apples. He's not supposed to yet. He will need the knowledge eventually. He must lose his naivete as he ages and matures...but not yet. Like Adam, Eve, and God, if he were to somehow come to me and ask for the knowledge I have (and if I were somehow able to give it in that moment), I wouldn't give it to him, and he wouldn't understand if I tried to tell him why. The best place for him to be right now is in his toddler world where there is no such thing as manipulation, rejection, and anxiety.

Isn't this the way it goes for most of our lives? We approach new things with a certain level of naivete, and then we eventually gain insight and learn the truth, and while we don't usually want to return to our ignorance, we wrestle with disappointment and think, "Man, this isn't all it's cracked up to be." As we become adults, we become aware of things like rejection and grief and begin to know the pain. We can't often see past where we are. When we encounter someone who is more naive than us, we shake our heads and think about how foolish they are; and when we encounter someone who is less naive than us, we feel disgust at what we perceive as their pessimism.

You might be familiar with the scene in The Matrix where Neo is talking to Morpheus after he has just learned the truth about his existence. In shock from all he has learned, Neo asks Morpheus, "I can't go back, can I?" Morpheus responds, "No. But if you could, would you want to?"

Man, what a question.

I'm reminded of the verse in the Bible that says, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). If you're like me, every once in a while, you want that Garden of Eden you once lived in. The world where there's no such thing as rejection. The world where you've got nothing to lose. The world as it was before you ever knew of things like death or disease. The world where everything was under control and nothing bad would happen to you as long as you were faithful to God. There's not just one apple that we eat. Rather, month by month and year by year, we climb out of naivete into wisdom and insight. Sometimes, it's an exercise in having our bubble burst or our feet knocked out from under us.

But then we are left with a choice. We can let despair get to us and we can spend today longing for a yesterday that will never return. Or, we can embrace the rewards of the path we're on. The apostle Paul said it this way: "We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). As we grow from naivete to maturity, there is something precious that we lose, but there is also something far more valuable that we gain.

But believe me: I love watching my son play in the Garden of Eden. And I'm not going to rush him out.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of something our pastor said once about how we have become "educated beyond our own intelligence." God definitely knew we were better off not knowing the "things that are secret" that are of God (Deut. 29:29), probably because we know too much for our own good (or think we do) too often already.

    Maybe it's the "fundie" part of me but I still see the story of the fall as involving Satan, and in fact I believe it's the first time in the Bible that Christ is directly referred to ("He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.") So, I do think it is primarily meant to be a literal story of the fall, though like so many biblical narratives, there are secondary themes that we need to take from it.