So here I am writing my first post for my first blog…and it’s my thoughts on the beginning of Genesis.

Cliché, right? Right.

Ever since I graduated college in May, my life has been a contemplative one. The theme of “identity” has bubbled to the surface of my thought life.  It is really no surprise that it has: I just graduated college, I’m working my first salaried job (though I had no job lined up when I first graduated), I’m away from the community I grew to love over the past four years, living in a new town, and living there alone. Yep, there was certainly time to think, especially about my self, who I am. “Now we can find out who the real Anthony Donovan is” was a thought I had as I transitioned to St. Augustine.

I was afraid I wouldn’t like what I found. I was scared that the man I became in college was a fraud, and soon enough I’d revert back to the awkward boy I was in High School. But I’ve learned that God loves to affirm his sons and daughters in who He’s made them to be. After a month or so, and through a handful of experiences, I realized that the changes God made in my life were real, and geography couldn’t steal them away.

All of that to say that “identity” has been a big theme in my life recently. So has “sonship,” but I won’t go into that here. Because of all that, it didn’t surprise me that this thought popped into my head as I was out running tonight: maybe Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden has to do with identity and sonship more than anything else.

Let me explain.

And 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 midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely 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.’ (Genesis 3:2-5)

What have we all been taught about this passage? What is the issue? The issue is this: Satan told Adam and Eve the biggest lie in history. “If you want, you can be like God, and all you need to do is eat that fruit.” And it turns out that Adam and Eve actually wanted that. In fact, they wanted to be like God so bad that they were willing to disobey God himself to attain that state of being. It seems like they forgot one thing: God is holy, so there is none beside him in any arena. Adam and Eve’s fundamental desire to be like God is misplaced at best and damning at worst. Isn’t this what we’re taught about The Fall? In one form or another, you and I are told that “Satan’s greatest lie is that you can be like God…(depending on the length of the conversation, it usually digresses into talk about Mormons thinking they’ll create their own universes or something of the like).”

I’d like to offer another take on this, because I think there’s something deeper going on here.

I think Satan’s “great lie” was not a lie at all, but an attack on Adam and Eve’s identity. The fact is, they were like God:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

In the beginning, mankind was in the image and likeness of God. And what was their goal? To expand and reign over all creation. They were made to be kings like God is king, and regardless of what you may think “image” and “likeness” refer to, I think it’s clear that, whatever they mean, the intent of this passage is to say that Adam was like God. That was his identity. What would he be if he wasn’t like God? What would separate him from all the rest of creation. He had no human father. But God was his papa, and Adam was made to be just like him.

And, when we get down to it, don’t we want the same? Don’t we long to be more like Jesus every day? Doesn’t God’s mission go beyond getting us out of Hell? Doesn’t it involve making us co-heirs with Christ? Think about that: co-heirs with Christ. Are you kidding me? We literally get to reign over all creation with Jesus. If being with Jesus for all eternity, ruling the universe together, isn’t being “like God,” then I don’t know what being “like God” could even look like. Add that onto the crazy promise Jesus makes that we will do the works that he does, and even greater! (John 14:12). We were made to be like God. Of course Adam wanted that! And if we don’t, then we desire too little from our God.

So when the serpent comes up to Eve (I’m assuming Adam is nearby) and says, “eat this fruit and you’ll be just like God.” The lie isn’t that they can become like God. The lie is in the Devil’s implication that they aren’t. Listen to the subtext of what Satan is saying here: “If you eat this fruit, you’ll become like God. Because right now you’re nothing like him and you’ll never be, unless…”

Every boy wants to make his father proud of him. Until he receives affirmation from his dad or gives up on it, I think he wants it more than nearly anything. So what a sting it must have been for Adam to hear those words, words that communicate, “Adam, you only thought your were your father’s son, but you’re not. In fact, you’ll never be like him. You think you are, but there is one thing you’re missing. If you only eat this fruit, then you’re really be like him.”

And since then, God has been on mission for our souls and our identities, ready to win us back with a whisper: “You are my son (or daughter), and I am so darn proud of you.”