18 years of Catholic and Jesuit education taught me one thing about the Adam and Eve story: don’t disobey God! Now, no doubt that is an important lesson. But intellectually when you dig deeper you find there is so much more.
The Enemy in the story became the first ‘mirror’: “look at yourself, and how poorly you compare to God; you can be so much more, if only you had this or that”. This Enemy-enabled ‘selfie’ changed Adam and Eve’s focus from God and His creations, to themselves: they immediately knew they were naked and had to hide from the God, who until that point had showed nothing but the most gentle of parental love.
The common label applied to this choice to separate themselves from God – ‘Original Sin’ – sometimes makes us think, “if only Adam hadn’t done that.” But Adam’s ability to choose – love God or love self – was critical to the relationship that he – and us – would one day enjoy with God. Without it he was simply another member of God’s animal kingdom.
God knew the power of that special instrument only given to Man – Love – was simply too powerful to be pointed inward. Like the empty calories of today’s processed foods, Love focused inward might make us ‘happy’ for a moment, but would rob us of the long-lasting ‘joy’ of whole-grain Love focused outward. More importantly, that sugar-high happy would become an addiction that we would struggle to withstand.
The timeless God in this story knew how it would play out. The love shared by the Trinity is a love that has no mirrors, no front-facing cameras. As He tells His love story over the next few millennia, we learn of His tireless pursuit of our love, trying to get us to look away from the mirror, to stop taking the selfies: to focus our Love outward, to Him, to His children around us.
I recently ventured into the world of “sound technician” at my church. I have a passion for music, have enjoyed playing instruments and singing throughout my life. So after a few visits to Texas churches with incredible sound, I half-jokingly suggested to our worship leader that we needed a sub-woofer. To a leader responsible for a team of musical volunteers, this was a floated balloon she could not ignore. Two months later I was sitting in service behind the big scary sound console (not so scary after some great training)!
I committed to making this a labor of love and worship. “Start each service with a prayer to offer it up to God, to use my time to serve the preacher and the praise team, and ultimately to help use sound and music to touch others”. Halfway into my first solo service I realized that plan had already been scrapped: I was in “Martha” mode: worrying about the sound performance had me so engaged in the ‘tasks’ to be performed that I had lost sight of why I was performing the tasks. I was in God’s presence yet the mix and the knobs had taken control.
Anyone following the George Behr twit feed knows this is a recurring theme. The early writings of the author in CS Lewis’s book “The Great Divorce” reflect God’s presence in his life. As he matures the words take center stage, eclipsing God. Even though I’ve spent years in Christ’s presence, the tasks I’m performing, often for Him, can easily overshadow Him.
While Screwtape may have gotten me that first time, it is a great lesson for the next time. At the end of those volume, equalizer and gain knobs is a child of God worshiping through performance. At the end of their musical notes is a child of God worshiping to the sound. “The one thing that keeps us from the possibility of worrying is bringing God in as the greatest factor in all our calculations.”