I sometimes wonder how long it took before Eve ate the fruit from the tree God told her to avoid? We’re never told how much time passed from when God first gave the command to “be selective” with the fruit consumption, to when Eve actually first tried a bite.
We often read the bible as though a turn of the page or a new chapter, equals the passing of a single day. Even though the bible may tell us it was “3 years” or “40 days” or “120 years”, we still read the biblical story as if every event took place right after the event before it.
So when I read the story about the fruit, and I look at temptation in my own life, I imagine the story of the fall begins something like this: Eve wakes up early in the morning and goes for a walk (I imagine a health-conscious Eve). She knows right where “that” tree is located in the garden. Yet the warning from God is so new, so fresh, that she not only avoids eye contact with it, but she makes a point to walk out of her way to avoid it. For when you embrace the commands of God as a way to live life, you are filled with courage, determination, and nothing can lead you away from the truth.
Day after day she walks beyond and around the dangerous tree. Until one day when she doesn’t. Her reasoning is simple enough. The path she takes is twice as long as it needs to be, and just because she walks close to the tree does not mean she will look at it, or God forbid, taste its fruit. And so, for the first time, she doesn’t go beyond and around the tree, she walks right past it. She walks quickly and stares down at the ground. But there it is….right next to her.
And then one day on her way home she walks by the tree, and this time looks it up and down. She wonders to herself, “what’s the big deal with this tree anyway?” “I’m just looking at it, it’s not like I’m going to grab a piece of fruit and take a bite…I’m not stupid!” It does look good, and the thought of not being able to even try something begins to dig at her. So day after day she follows the same path, that takes her by the same tree. She lingers a little longer each time she passes, and each time she entertains a discussion in her mind about why God said that, and what God actually meant, and there are worse things she could do besides eat fruit. The wide vision of a beautiful garden begins to narrow into the longing of a forbidden object….and the desire grows.
Until the day when her longing is met with an invitation…an opportunity….and then just a taste. Long before the moment when her taste buds exploded with the rush of sugar and pulp and juice, the journey that eventually led to her death had already begun.
The thing about temptation in our lives is that it can be so subtle, and sometimes it takes a long time. We are more aware of the impulse temptations, like standing in line at the grocery store being pulled between a healthy living magazine on one side of the aisle, and the king size Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup on the other side. I may not always win that fight, but I usually see it coming. But sometimes, the progression of temptation in our lives moves slowly, allowing us to become more comfortable with our proximity to sin. Eventually, before we are fully aware, we get so close to sin that it starts to look like something other than sin, something we need, or worse, something we are justified in doing.
So we start spending an unreasonable amount of time around a coworker of the opposite sex, or head back to a website we had stumbled across once before. Maybe we go ahead and change the numbers, or we take “it” just this once. In all of our lives there is that one tree, that stands above the garden of God’s goodness and haunts us with a simple call: Come and see, check it out, stay a little longer, take a step closer, you won’t do anything stupid and you can always walk away.
Maybe that’s why the bible uses words like: run, flee, be aware, turn away from, and guard your heart — because sometimes temptation takes a while, and it’s patience can be our downfall. In our lives, if we are not watching, listening, and walking toward our Creator, everything else begins to grow in significance. We can then no longer see the forest of God’s provision, only the tree in our life that promises what it cannot deliver. So what is the temptation you used to walk beyond and around, but now (maybe for what appear to be innocent reasons) you find yourself walking closer and closer to, even checking out what it has to offer?
Where are you?
What is the tree in your life?