This reflection was given during the daily Eucharist in the chapel of an Anglican convent. The Scripture it references is Genesis 3:1-8
Well, there it is. Today’s reading from Genesis is one of those parts of Scripture which has come to grip imaginations in powerful ways ever since it was written. When we want to know who we really are, it holds up an uneasy reflection which prompts more thoughtful questions than easy answers; or at least, I think it should.
What I noticed as I read it for today was that one of the reasons Eve was tempted, was that she saw that “the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” And I thought that was interesting, because it suggests that somehow Eve, in that primitive, pre-fallen state, had a sense of herself as being unwise.
And I wonder why that was? Presumably, in the perfect life of the garden, there wasn’t any task for her to do for which she felt she lacked the knowledge or skill. I also presume that in that perfect garden, there was nothing with which she felt discontented, or that she wanted to improve.
I’m reminded a bit of the idea of a human hierarchy of needs; that human beings have needs, ranging from the most basic (physiological needs for food, rest, safety and so forth), to the more complex (needs for belonging, love and esteem), through to the need for what the psychologists call “self-actualisation;” the ability to realise one’s full potential, in creativity, in enlightenment, in knowledge, and so forth.
In the garden Eve didn’t have any unmet needs, except perhaps this one; did a perfect world leave her any scope for self-actualisation? Or is that need, that drive to realise our potential, something we only have now, after the fall, when we are aware of how far we are from how we were created to be? I’m not sure.
But what it suggests to me, as I ponder what that might mean for us today, is that the drive to realise our potential is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it can lead us to seek God’s will for our lives, pushing ourselves to fulfil what God created us for and calls us to; and that is a good thing!
On the other hand it might make something which isn’t actually right for me, look like a good idea; or it might make me restless and unreliable during the part of growing which is more hard work than instant reward. Not every opportunity is going to be the right thing at the right time.
And so that’s the question I’m left with, as I look at my own decisions to make: if I do this or that, whom does it really serve? Is it part of the bigger picture of what God’s doing in the world, or is it just appealing to my own desire to be bigger than I am right now? Lest, desiring to become wise, I become a fool.
But we ought to be wise in Christ.
The Lord be with you.