The Fig Leaf Weavers and Me


Lately, I’ve been thinking about Genesis and the fall, because there’s way more there than initially meets the eye. For instance, there’s the first animal sacrifice. In response to original sin, God supplies the original sacrifice in the form of animal skin outfits.

That blows my mind.

I get why lots of people aren’t impressed by this revelation, but the literary critic in me gets SO excited every time I see motifs in the Bible. The first time I ever read the Bible, sacrifice was an annoying section called Leviticus, which was really just a hideous list, describing how Jewish people had to kill specific sets of animals on specific days in specific ways. Then, I read the Bible again, and sacrifice made exponentially more sense, because “the Lamb of God” became more than a churchy phrase and I intellectualized Christ on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Then, I read the Bible a few more times, and I was like, “Whoa – this whole passover thing with Egypt and the plagues is really the same as Jesus dying so that our sins would be passed over.” We’ve got a passover lamb and the Lamb of God. Same thing (ish)? I think so. The most recent piece I’ve come to in the sacrifice puzzle is the first piece in the story: original sinners find sin’s covering in animal skins provided by God.

So… I’ve been pretty jazzed about literary devices in God’s book, but there’s something else about this passage that irks me.

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:7-8)

This is before God provides the animal sacrifice. First, we have the original sin of eating the forbidden fruit, general disobedience, wanting to be like God, Adam’s failure to lead and protect his wife, etc… Then, we have the original response to sin: fear and shame. Initially, that seems pretty appropriate. They did something wrong, so they ought to come to contrition for that wrong. However, the weird thing is believing that there was (and is) a better response to this mess than trying to clean it up.

The older I get, the more I feel the weight of sin. When I was younger, I really didn’t get why Jesus had to die. I didn’t understand the injustice and horror of human folly. I didn’t see why the penalty of sin would be death, because I was entrenched in the cultural truth that humans are basically good.

Which is a problem.

Misunderstanding the weight of sin leads to a misunderstanding of the weight of the cross.

But now that I can’t look on sin and human nature without disgust, I’ve got a new problem. I’m hoping this problem is just a part of sanctification, because really knowing sin (think conocer rather than ser), leaves me standing in the garden with a mess I want to clean up.

HOWEVER…

There could be another solution that Adam and Eve didn’t see because they didn’t know (conocer) God. Perhaps I have trouble seeing it too, because the story of the original sin is also the story of the original response to sin, both of which are at the core human identity; they’re at the core of my identity.

It’s completely against my nature to look upon my nudity and ask God for an outfit. It seems stupid to do that. There’s nothing about me or my situation that suggests God will give me something to wear. There’s no reason He should, which is probably why Adam and Eve got out the needle and thread, and why my initial reaction to my messes is the same as theirs. Believing the Bible and knowing God require trust in that which is better than experience. They require an optimism that’s unfounded in this world and an inconceivable solution to the mess I’ve made.

Adam and Eve should have trusted that God would forgive their disobedience and help them. They should have gone to Him, knowing that He would care for them.

But they didn’t. And I don’t.

I often look on my mistrust of God to provide the Lamb and atone for my sin, and find myself crouched behind the trees searching for fig leaves in the hope that they’ll cover my sinful mistrust. And the irony presses all the breath from my lungs, because I’m not a fan of this particular literary device in this particular story… my story. Just as the motif of animal sacrifice saturates the Bible, an irony of the original response follows: Adam, Eve, the pharisees, the prodigal son, and I labor at our sewing machines late into the night, each bent on making a garment large enough to hide the greatest mess ever made.

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