My favorite Episcopal communion liturgy is Eucharistic Prayer C. It not only acknowledges that humans and our earth are but a tiny part of creation, but it also elegantly encapsulates the Biblical story. About the Fall, it says:
“From the primal elements you brought forth the human race and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.”
Dwight Zscheile’s March 1st sermon elaborated on the themes of Prayer C: purpose, trust, betrayal, and conflict. The sermon put the Fall into a relational and communitarian context. In return for giving us cognitive superpowers, God entrusted us with the purpose and responsibility of stewarding the little blue jewel on which we live and all the creatures on it, including ourselves. Our stewardship responsibilities have placed boundaries on us both collectively and individually. We are relational beings, and we can’t have successful relationships with ourselves, other species, our earth, or God without limiting our behavior.
And there’s the rub. Homo sapiens seem to be hard-wired to hate boundaries. The very powers of imagination that allow us to conceive of nations, science, and art compel us to imagine what things would be like on the other side of our boundaries. And those imaginings are exactly what got Adam and Eve into trouble, and which get us into trouble. With the serpent’s help, Eve imagined how great it would be to have God-like knowledge. We imagine things like how great it would be to have sex with someone outside my marriage, how great it would be to have that house (or nation) across the way, or how great it would be to pay back those people who insulted my father (or blasphemed my religion).
And so we blow past the boundaries that keep our relationships healthy, and in doing so we betray the trust that God and others have placed in us. Our abilities to imagine better worlds and better lives lead us to make great advancements, but they also lead us to do selfish and hurtful things.
I think a useful Lenten reflection is to examine your internal dialogue and identify the thoughts and behaviors that hurt and enhance your relationships. What are the healthy boundaries that we should impose on ourselves, and what are the unhealthy boundaries that keep from us deeper and better relationships? For example, you might think, “This spaghetti is overcooked!” but do you really need to tell that to the person who cooked it? Or you might think to yourself, “There’s somebody who looks troubled. Maybe I should say something to him.” (and you probably should.)
What are your thoughts on relationships and boundaries, and where God is in them?