Before we begin, I apologize for the change in website. Unfortunately, the prior setup was not allowing comments to be posted. That wasn't working well for us since we wanted some interaction among those utilizing the online format of this bible study. At the bottom of each blog post will be 4 comments that I will have already made at the posting of each week. If you have comments/questions in any given section of the bible study, reply to the corresponding comment that I have made. Feel free to reply to others' comments/questions as you are able! Thank you for journeying with us this Lenten season!
As Pastor Dan noted in his video introducing this week’s theme, we are often afraid of being exposed. We are afraid of being exposed as the imposters, frauds, phonies we really are. This relates to the idea of imposter syndrome. Cal-Tech ’s counseling website defines this as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence. It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart student, that you are only imposing as such.” (https://counseling.caltech.edu/general/InfoandResources/Impostor). The American Psychological Association even recognizes it. Have you ever felt this way in your career, your education, your relationship with family and friends, maybe even your relationship with God? I think we might hide from these feelings, or, maybe we hide behind these feelings. If we can make light of feeling like frauds, then we can laugh it off without really confronting why we feel that way. Through our scripture this week, we’ll deal with our all-too-common fear of being exposed. I’m glad you’re able to join us this week!
II. Digging Into the Text
Read Genesis 3:1-19 in the NRSV below, or in your favorite translation. As I mentioned last week, you may wish to read it through several times so that you can internalize what the passage is saying to you.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “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.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
What are your initial insights of this passage?
So Adam and Eve are in the garden which is, by all accounts, paradise on earth. After a period of time, the serpent comes along and absolutely wrecks things for the happy couple and God. The serpent basically tells Eve (and by extension Adam) that they will be like gods if they would eat of the forbidden fruit. This is a tempting proposition, and they accept this offer. Immediately they become aware of their nakedness and hide out of fear from God. After being questioned by God, Adam breaks very quickly and blames Eve as “the woman whom [God] gave to be with [him].” Talk about throwing his partner under the bus. It’s worth noting here that Adam is effectively hiding behind his wife at this point. He is afraid of being exposed; he is afraid because he has been exposed. It is worth pointing out that Adam also seems to blame God, as God was the one who “gave” the woman to be with Adam. If this is the case, then Adam is also hiding and trying really hard to not be exposed by blaming God. The woman, likewise, is quick to throw the serpent under the bus for having convinced her to eat of the fruit. This might be rightfully so, but, again, she’s hiding behind the serpent now. She, like her husband, is afraid of being exposed, especially after having been exposed.
So Adam and Eve disobeyed the only commandment that God gave them of what not to do, and what follows is the expected punishment of their disobedience. However, this punishment is what should give hope to those who read this passage. God curses the serpent, who initiated this whole failure on the part of humanity. What God does not do, though, is specifically curse Adam and Eve. The word for curse in Hebrew is actually never applied to either Adam or Eve or even their descendants in this passage. The only other thing that God curses here besides the serpent is the ground itself. As a result of their disobedience, women were to experience pain during childbirth, but God does not curse them. As a result of their disobedience, men have to work the ground in labor in order for it to produce food, but God does not curse them. God leaves the door open for redemption of humanity, which should give us reason for hope in the midst of this story.
I’d like for there to be some discussion on any insights you may have regarding the scripture for the week, whether on its own or its connection to our introductory material. Respond to others’ insights as you are able, and then check out this week’s podcast below.
If you have anything you wish to contribute to the discussion from the podcast, or if it triggered anything in your mind, feel free to share.
IV. So What?
If God was willing to overlook not just Adam and Eve disobeying him, but actively hiding their actions and themselves from him in his decision not to curse them, does it not make sense that he would overlook what we’re hiding from him and the masks we’re hiding behind? For me, personally, I struggle with feeling like an imposter in my capacity as student pastor here at Lewis Center UMC. At the ripe old age of 26, I’m given authority I haven’t necessarily earned. I haven’t gained all of the abilities and skills necessary to effectively lead a congregation or even a small group, and, yet, here I am preaching to this congregation and leading this Bible Study. I frequently ask myself who thought that this was a good idea. This is a pretty good example of imposter syndrome. I’m not supposed to have all of the answers. I’m supposed to fail and learn. And yet, when I manage to succeed in my leadership and teaching, I don’t readily accept that it was more than mere luck or someone else’s work or effort.
Do you have similar experience with this? My challenge to you this week (and to myself) is to step back when those thoughts and feelings creep in. Take off the mask you’re hiding behind, whatever it is, and hand it over to God. Maybe you could say the prayer I’ve included below when you need the additional encouragement and strength. God created each of us for a given purpose, and we cannot afford to ignore his call on our lives out of fear of being exposed.
God, our Creator and Sustainer, we all too often hide behind masks out of our fear from being exposed. Give us strength to be the persons you created us to be in your image. Remind us of who we are in you, and in the Body of Christ, the Church. Amen.