Lent is a season that I have probably not reflected on enough in the past. So preparing this essay has given me a greater appreciation for what these days and what the rest of our monastic and oblate lives are about.
Lent often begins - the first Sunday - with a reading from the Book of Genesis: the fall of Adam and Eve. As a psychologist familiar with children and parenting and how people grow, I take particular interest and pleasure in this story.
I love it for two reasons. The first is that Adam and Eve act like perfect 5-year-olds when God discovers what they have done:
"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"
The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it."
Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me into it, and I ate."
It is the classic childhood response to getting in trouble: blame someone else. How often do we hear: "But she started it!"? Almost weekly, I have kids at my practice tell me: "I do do my homework, but my teacher loses it." Once I even heard: "I didn't steal it; my hand took it."
Children struggle to admit when they have done something wrong, and I have learned that a child - or any adult, for that matter - will never change his or her behavior, unless they admit that they are the problem and take responsibility for what they have done. So, there's little hope for Adam and Eve as long as they stay where they are, pointing the finger at someone else, in that now-spoiled, now-cracked, now-obsolete paradise of their childhood.
Then what I love, secondly, about this story is watching what a masterful parent God is to these children of His. He has given them everything and gives them just one rule - which they break - and so He shows His disappointment and His anger and punishes them, but - and here is the perfect part - He doesn't walk away from the relationship. The relationship continues.
Next: Part 2