Another day has come and gone. My blogging is sporadic at best, which is (perhaps) my greatest failing this Lent. On the one hand, that means good things in other areas. On the other hand, falling short in any area is not a good thing. Sins of omission (we have left undone those things which we ought to have done) and sins of commission (we have done those things which we ought not to have done)…
Spent some time yesterday reflecting on the fall. Adam & Eve. The serpent. And on St. Augustine. In my undergraduate studies I majored in Philosophy, and I had a professor who couldn’t get over St. Augustine being hung up, in his Confessions, on this neighbour’s tree that he had stolen fruit from in his youth. I remember her asking time and time again, “…what is it about this tree?” I think I get the old saint better now than I did, then.
We regularly remind, and are reminded, that all sin is the same. The same consequence (being separated from God), the same remedy (the blood of Jesus). But what if that’s not entirely true? What if some sins are game-changers? I remember being at a friend’s birthday party when I was in Grade 6. His parents had rented a Friday the 13th movie for us to watch, that evening. When he and all the rest of the party-guests were gathering for the movie, I was happily playing Super Mario Bros. 2 (a game I never owned, but deeply enjoyed). I was doing it because I knew that I shouldn’t watch Friday the 13th movies. When my friend came and asked me to join them for the movie, I replied that my parents wouldn’t let me watch that movie. He answered that I was in his house, and that his parents said it was alright. I caved, and watched the movie. I guess there was gore in it, and nudity, as I had expected. But the bad thing that happened that night wasn’t that I saw gore and nudity (I was always good at covering my eyes pretty quickly when such things appeared), but that I’d given the authority-to-make-decisions over me to people who shouldn’t have had it.
Let me be clear: I’d disobeyed my parents before; I’d done things I knew they wouldn’t approve of; I had openly and willfully defied them, to their own faces. But I’d always known that they had authority over my life, and that I was wrong for doing so. This was the first time that I’d ever gone against their desires for me because I’d attributed their authority to someone else. Isn’t that what Adam & Eve did? The serpent brought up some interesting questions, which they should have chosen to explore with God in more depth (after all, God was the one with authority over them, to allow or disallow them to eat different foods). But rather than taking it up with God, they attributed God’s authority to the serpent (the serpent was counted a worthy authority on the fruit, on the consequences of eating it, and of what they should eat). That was a game-changer. We know it was.
Unlike me, Adam & Eve hadn’t disobeyed God before. In a very dramatic, traumatic, way, this was the first sin. But if we stop there, we miss its significance. It wasn’t a child refusing to open its mouth when the parent holds the spoonful of food in front of it. It was the child thinking it was right in doing so. It strikes me that something like that is what’s going on in St. Augustine’s Confessions.
There’s a lot more conversation that could go on, with this. I’d love to have that conversation sometime.