I’m going to tell you a thing about your natural identity that is too marvelous to be fathomed all at once—a thing that must be grappled with and reflected on—a thing at the end of which it will come down to what kind of soul you have and what kind of wanting it does in the deepest of its depths. So if it takes you extra time to ponder these worthy things, do let it.
Unwrapping the Identity Story
I must begin by helping you know what to look for in the Bible stories to which I want to direct your attention. These are stories about the deep question of human identity, and if you are like most, you will have missed the better part of the message.
This is because, whatever else they are in all their fullness, God and Jesus are both consummate storytellers who know how to pack into an account more than just the facts and figures necessary to make it viable at face value. Even their stories of real events are loaded with more than just what happened; for there are themes and images and precepts and principles aplenty to light up the mind, trying the one story to another, and back again.
When God or Jesus or one of their inspired prophets tell a story, there is almost always meaning underneath the surface—to be missed by those who do not understand how good story works. And for those who do, what is underneath is so rich as to make them sometimes doubt whether it is even necessary that the story on the surface be true to history, since what is underneath is so very true to philosophy. But even so, this God and Jesus have always had the power to shape the very course of human events into the perfect story to demonstrate these heavenly truths for all mankind.
So, then, let us consider the story of what God intended for our lives.
The God-Intended Identity of Man
As you will likely know, when God made man, he formed the man’s body from the soil, and then breathed a spirit into that body. What you may not have perceived, however—for so few of us know much about how to read a great story—is the agrarian imagery of it all: that this was God planting a seed of sorts in that soil of the man’s heart. And like any good Gardener, God would be on watch to see what would become of his seed in good season.
It was a curious arrangement—an intended collaboration between the proactive Creator and the passive Creature, who had neither asked to be created, nor to be in a collaboration—nor to be assigned any work, whether physical or spiritual, nor to be bound by any rules. God, in his wisdom,had seen fit to risk the response of man. And the man was put on the spot, as it were—his new soul set in a ready-made and mature body, and having to choose in real-time his response to each new event and opportunity.
And we must strain to remember our own childhoods if we are to grasp what it was like for the man, that not yet having any idea how things go on this Earth, every moment in his new life would come as a surprise. And like it or not, the outcome of his very self was to be determined in the aggregate of the choices he would make throughout his tenure on the Earth.
It will shock many to hear it, but I’m pretty sure the man’s soul was not created mature, as many are taught to believe, even against the evidence. Spiritual maturity was not the goal of man’s creation, but of his consummation—not of his birth, but of his death in due season—not of the day of planting, but of the day of harvest. Life on Earth was the very-fair test of man’s choice over time, and his habitual choices would hold sway over the qualities of his own disposition. He had indeed been bestowed with a great power over himself, and could will it into action if he so chose..
And the Gardener would keep watch to see how much the man would care about pleasing him, and how well he would settle into this collaboration. And it would become obvious whether he would take to working the soils, both literal and metaphorical.
This was the plan, and before they had really gotten started, God saw that it was good. That is to say that this arrangement for humanity suited God just fine, even as indeterminate as it might be in the case of any particular human. And all together, even with that Serpent in view, it was very good. This was the intended identity of man: to be the one that does the physical work of making his own way in this real world, and the spiritual work of making the soil of his own heart fertile for instruction from God.
This was the identity that the very God of gods—the Giver of Life—appointed for the man. And I think it was exactly this that God had in mind when he said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness“—for we have no reason to presume that God should literally look like us, though surely, some arrive at this from sheer arrogance, as they do other bad assumptions.
Now, about their particular sin, let us not miss the fact that it was Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience of the simplest command—not a hard one, mind you, but quite a simple one—that demonstrated for the ages that they were not yet ready in spirit to live with God. They had so far not fully grasped the import of what it means to be Creature to the Creator. Nor had they previously had any cause to know, as far as we are told, either the cunning of the Serpent or the ferocity of his game.
They did not curse God, nor mount a coup or rebellion against him. Rather, the way the story has it, they simply ate from the one prohibited tree that stood in the Garden among the permitted ones.
And this was their lot in life. This was the reality into which God had set their lives. So off they went, Adam and Eve, where legend tells us they repented of that minor sin that was the center of God’s major demonstration of their immaturity.
And I have yet to tell you about God’s greater purposes in all this, or about the many ways in which those of us who have shunned God’s identity have shirked the responsibility of the physical and spiritual work required to be pleasing to God.
But let us pause here while I sum it all up to say that the whole Bible saga, beginning to end, is about whether man—any man, really—will want to live under that predetermined identity—that heavenly design and intent. It’s about whether he will want to conform himself to the Image and Likeness of God and walk in God’s Way and Truth and Life, or alternately, to do something else in his long-but-short time here on Earth.
That Most Pernicious Choice
And I have much more to tell you about all this, but ending it here for now, I do well to warn you about that most pernicious choice of man, more egregious to God than refusing his Identity outright, and yet more appealing to many immature souls than being all in or all out. It is the choice of pretending—of going through the motions outwardly, yet without the fire of authenticity in the heart. This is the sin of Cain, the firstborn of Adam. And his evil was so great in God’s eyes—and in Abel’s—that Cain himself would become a figure of wickedness for all generations.
This is what I will tell you about next.