Many times, I avoid suffering and struggling because of the pain. The pain is definitely real, and there is no doubt that suffering is real. What sometimes I may forget is the hidden blessings of pain. Even pain and suffering due to my mistakes. My mistakes? A blessing? Yes.
Take, for example, the Fall. Many Church Fathers say that if Adam and Eve continued as they were in obedience to God, they would have received immortality. We know that naturally, humanity was mortal since God told Adam after he sinned, “For dust you are, and to dust, you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). St. Athanasius explains, “He set them in His own paradise, and laid upon them a single ban. If they kept the grace and preserved their original innocence, then the life of paradise should be theirs, without sorrow, pain, or care, and after it, the promise of immortality in heaven. However, if they went astray and became wicked, throwing away their birthright of beauty, then they would come under the natural law of death and live no longer in paradise. But to die outside of it, continuing in death and corruption.”
The concept of God creating us mortal is sometimes misunderstood because of God telling Adam and Eve the consequence of eating the fruit was death. But what God said wasn’t wrong. Physical death was a consequence, not a punishment imposed on them. It’s kind of like a test I need to take time to study. I don’t know the material before, and I didn’t study. Therefore, I’m going to fail the test because that’s the natural consequence of when you don’t know something, and you don’t take time to learn it. Just like before the test, naturally, I did not know the material, Adam and Eve were naturally mortal. The consequence of eating from the fruit was to continue in this mortality and being cut off from God because sin is incompatible with God. If Adam and Eve were to remain in obedience, He would have given them immortality.
Imagine if they did though, He would have just given it to them. There would have been no need for the Incarnation. There would have been no need for Christ to die on the cross, be buried, and rise. At first glance, this might be appealing; Christ wouldn’t have had to suffer for my sake? Sounds fantastic. But there is so much I would miss out on. I would have missed out on the story of the greatest love. The love that our Lord Jesus Christ took flesh and was incarnate and resembled me in everything except for sin alone. The story of the greatest of love where the Only-Begotten Son, Who while still sitting enthroned at the right of the Father, sat enthroned on the cross.
The implications of the Incarnation are much more important than I think or realize. There is a certain level of deep intimacy and union through the Incarnation. Call it theosis, call it theopoiesis, call it a relationship, call it whatever you want. The main point is that through the Incarnation, God Himself became man, and salvation as a whole is through the Incarnation as a whole. St. Athanasius says, “His body was not a limitation. But an instrument so that He was both in His body and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At the same time as Man, He was living a human life, and as Word, He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as the Son, He was in constant union with the Father.”
All this would not have come if it weren’t for a mistake, a mistake of disobedience. Yes, even in my mistakes, God manifests His grace, His love, and His mercy. Shame will tell me my mistakes make me worthless and unchangeable. But Christ says, “Behold, I make all things new.” This is what St. Paul means when he says, “Therefore, if I am in Christ, I am a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” I am literally in a real and genuine way a new creation in Christ’s Incarnation through the life of the Church.
Verses were edited to be in the first person.