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.