- Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
- Psalm 32
- Romans 5:12-19
- Matthew 4:1-11
You can find the readings, in the CEB and NRSV translation, by clicking this link.
Here we are at the beginning of Lent.
I’m always interested to hear how people are going to mark the 40 days of Lent. One friend once told me that everyone becomes a Tom or a Gus at Lent: they ‘Take On More’ or ‘Give Up Something’.
Much like at New Year’s with the numerous resolution, people sometimes face a temptation at Lent to change something about themselves. I often think about where this temptation comes from. I know that for myself it’s often a place at the centre of my identity – that despite the time spent in education, the skills learned through experience, the commitment to a call, somehow I could still be a better Christian. I don’t know what it is about Lent, but I suddenly find myself face to face with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity – that somehow I am not enough.
I have learned that this ‘not enoughness’ is a fairly common human tendency. So common, in fact, that we have come up with a number of terms and classifications for this overwhelming sense of inadequacy or insecurity. Imposter Syndrome is one such term that I have become familiar with in order to understand my own way of thinking.
This ‘not enoughness’ is a pernicious thing – something that many theologians, philosophers, psychologists, and deep thinkers around the world have wrestled with century after century.
Which is why I love that at the beginning of Lent we go back to the very beginning: the creation of humanity.
In the first chapter of Genesis, we receive a story of creation that puts the world in order.
As an artist, I love this story because it helps me to understand my own well of creativity. In reading this incredible narrative about God’s creative power and imagination poured abundantly into the existence of the galaxy, the earth, and all that lives, and moves, and breathes in it, I learn more about my own capacity to create and imagine.
That’s pretty powerful stuff for an artist.
But at the beginning of Lent it is in the second and third chapters of Genesis, the second creation story, that we find an important and relevant message.
I feel that this creation story is about humanity and our relationship to God.
Genesis 2:4b begins like this:
On the day the Lord God made earth and sky— 5 before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the Lord God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, 6 though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— 7 the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. 8 The Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. [Genesis 2:4b-8, CEB]
And we pick up today’s reading a few verses later. The blip in the middle of our selected reading that we’re missing is that God, out of love for and value of this created being, wanted him to have a partner in life.
God created every manner of beast and wild animal and the human one named them – the rest of the created world taking shape – but none was the perfect match for the first human.
So, God created another human, taking a catalyst from the first. We are tied to each other and we are tied to God.
It would still be an interesting story of identity and value if it ended there.
But it doesn’t. And, I find the next part to be just as interesting. The second part of this creation story goes right to that sense of ‘not enoughness’ I was talking about earlier.
Even Adam and Eve, living indescribably peaceful and plentiful lives, for whatever reason, find that the way things are is not enough. Because of our own struggles, it’s believable that out of this place of ‘not enoughness,’ Adam and Eve are tempted to take on more or give up something to address this.
As I said before, there are many deep thinkers who have tried to address the ‘not enoughness’ hole in our very being. St Augustine, an ancient church theologian, believed that this hole was God designed – since the very first human ones; God has designed humanity to experience relationship and partnership with God. The ‘not enoughness,’ then, perhaps, comes from the loss of God’s very tangible presence in one’s life.
We are tied to God. Our identity is tied to God.
To take it a little further, the contemporary writer Tim Lawrence says this about the ‘not enoughness’ when talking about inadequacy:
“It’s very possible that in some sense, you will never feel like you’re enough.
Yet to those who love you and those whose lives you touch, you will forever be more than enough.”
We are tied to each other. Our identity is tied to each other. “We are made for relationship and, when we are alone and out of context, we can lose the threads of our identity.”
Even our gospel reading continues God’s story and the themes of humanity and identity and value.
Jesus ventures into the wilderness, literally alone and out of context. And, I believe that Jesus comes face to face with that human reality of ‘not enoughness’. Moreover, he goes toe-to-toe with the tempter, who arrives with a good amount of craftiness and suggests that since Jesus is more than a simple human – he is the Son of God, isn’t he?! He can just fix that ‘not enoughness’ that affects us all so.
And Christ stands firm in his identity. In all the times to come where Jesus experiences the ‘not enoughness,’ he turns to God to give him the support and ‘enoughness’ to get through those moments. In all the times that Jesus sees those around him experiencing their own ‘not enoughness,’ Jesus points to God and to the communities of love surrounding those persons.
Because we are both tied to each other, and tied to God.
As we move into Lent, we step into our own wildernesses. And there will be many of us who face our own tempters – subtle messages that seek to emphasize that ‘not enoughness,’ suggesting that we need to take on more or give up something by our own efforts to fix ourselves. But, I want you to know: “Whether the days are crowded or lonely, whether we are thin with hunger or worn out with worries, whether we feel alone or unseen or overwhelmed, the firm ground is ours through Christ. We don’t have to stand alone in the hungry wilderness, because Christ stood there first. And when the subtle voice suggests and questions in our ears, he has already spoken the answer aloud.”
This Lent I decided to do something a little different. Whenever those feelings that I am somehow not enough as I am show up, I will try to remember instead that my value, my humanity, and my identity is forever tied to the people around me and especially to the God who made me. I have put up a poem to encourage me do this. And, I share it with you now:
“If you are a son of God
a daughter of God,
if you are a child of God
if you are…
You don’t need to prove it.
Please pray with me: Most gracious God, thank you for your commitment to deep and meaningful relationships with all of humanity. Help us to see that our value and identity is always found in you. Give us the courage to stand firmly against the temptations to feel that we are somehow ‘not enough’ and to trust your voice calling out that we are. Shine a light of ‘enoughness’ and unconditional love on all who are deeply troubled in this world. Help us this Lent to recommit ourselves to the identity that you give us, so that all that we do will ever point to the One Lord, our Saviour, in whose name we pray. Amen.
- Mark Davis. “Will This Be On The Test? (February 26, 2017)” Left Behind and Loving It.
- Steve Godfrey. “Cattywampus.” Church in the World: For the gospel in all of life.
- Tim Lawrence. “The Pain of Feeling Inadequate (February 10, 2016).” The Adversity Within: Shining Light on Dark Places.
- David Lose. “Into Temptation.” Dear Working Preacher: March 7, 2011. Preach This Week. Working Preacher.
- David Lose. “Lent 1A: Identity as Gift and Promise.” Dear Partner: February 27, 2017. …in the Meantime.
- Katie Munnik. “And if you are (March 3, 2014).” The Presbyterian Record.
This week’s image is entitled, “Temptation of Christ,” created by Ilya Yefimovich Repin, in 1896. The image is public domain. You can find out more about the painting here, and the artist here. The image has been modified for the purposes of this blog.
 Tim Lawrence. “The Pain of Feeling Inadequate (February 10, 2016).” The Adversity Within: Shining Light on Dark Places.
 Katie Munnik. “And if you are (March 3, 2014).” The Presbyterian Record
 Katie Munnik. “And if you are (March 3, 2014).”
 Katie Munnik. “And if you are (March 3, 2014).”