Preparing for this Sunday’s sermon I came across the phrase, “Original Insecurity”, when reading one of my favourite bible commentators, David Lose. One of the readings this Sunday was about Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden of Eden from God, after they have taken the apple. As most people know the action of taking that fruit was the first so-called Original Sin and since then, according to the theory, every human being has been born sinful. I don’t happen to believe that, but that every single human being has a propensity to sin and with the best will in the world, cannot seem to manage not to, I do agree.
I was made to think again when David Lose said he preferred to speak of “Original Insecurity” rather than “Original Sin.” In the changing of that one word he opened up the Adam and Eve story to speak even more relevantly into our modern world.
David’s theory, as I understood it, is that the story is as much about identity as it is about anything else. Not the identity we have but the identity we want to have. We know that Eve is tempted to take the apple because then she will be “like God, (knowing good and evil).” God has created her and placed her in a beautiful situation. But it is not enough. She wants to have the knowledge that God has because with it she thinks she will be “like him.” Although she has everything she could possibly need she does not appear to have a mature sense of self. So she tries to manipulate her environment. She seeks the recognition she wants, to establish her value, to get a sense of worth from herself and her own actions. She finds she cannot do it. She looks to herself and what she can make of herself, all by herself, to give herself significance and meaning. When things begin to go pear-shaped (apple-shaped?) she pulls Adam in to give her back-up and collude in her quest for self-significance. Together they leave God entirely out of the picture and they soon realise that they do not trust the false, selfish and self-serving personas they have created; moreover, they no longer trust each other or God. They experience themselves for the first time as separated, “naked” (vulnerable, fragile) and alone.
If we could point to one thing in our present age that seems to wound people and fails always to bring lasting contentment, it is that search for an identity which is not our own. We cannot establish ourselves, our value or our own worth on our own. We need a significant other to do that, and that very significant Other is God, who made us, knows us through and through and loves us with a passion we can’t begin to comprehend.
We may often find ourselves reverting to the original sin of pretending to be someone other than we are but perhaps this Collect from the Fourth Sunday in Lent will help us, when reminded of our frailty, to turn again to the One who gives us life, identity, significance and security.
you know us to be set
in the midst of so many and great dangers,
that by reason of the frailty of our nature
we cannot always stand upright:
grant to us such strength and protection
as may support us in all dangers
and carry us through all temptations;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.