As a microbiology student, I spent a lot of time looking at teeny tiny things through the lenses of a big, clunky microscope. One of the phrases that got used a lot when I was learning how to do this well involved “narrowing the field of vision” – the area inside the brightly lit circle you viewed through your lenses in the hopes of seeing microbiological somethingorothers. Sometimes, I was looking for single-celled organisms of mathematical beauty called diatoms. But most of the time, I was was looking at the kinds of creatures that wreak havoc with our persons when we, say, ingest something previously egested, or when we (polite cough) experience in our persons the unintended consequences of an illicit interaction with another person. In either case, my classmates and I spent a lot of time twiddling dials and turning knobs to focus on an ever-diminishing field of view. Then, on the way from the lab to my car, I would spend a long time squinting and blinking my eyelids to remind my not-as-young-as-they-were eyes what my normal field of vision was supposed to be.
Whatever the field of vision Adam and Eve had in those first days in Eden, we can surmise from the description God gives that what was inside it was beautiful. And delicious. With all that modern agriculture has done to bring back so-called “heritage” fruits and vegetables to modern day diets, can you imagine how fruits and vegetables grown directly by the hand of God must have tasted? And with the cost that modern farmers incur to bring these varieties to market (and then pass on to consumers, so that a pound of heirloom tomatoes can set you back over ten dollars), doesn’t the language of generosity that God employs to invite Adam and Eve to eat what He’s grown seem beyond rich?
This lavishness is what makes Satan’s enticement of Eve all the more insidious, and her active acquiescence more tragic. In one conversation of questions and answers, Satan reorients Eve’s field of vision away from all to which God has given His generous “Yes”, and fixed it on the one thing to which He has said “No”. In a rapidly spiraling series of half truths, distortions and lies, Eve infuses the one thing she is denied with a universe of meaning. Her vision is now fatally horizontal, with her creaturely need seeing fulfillment in finite creation, instead of its infinite, divine Source. With Adam silent at her side, Eve takes Satan at his toxic word, and for the first time, her eating brings death, instead of life.
Anyone like me who has ever fought an addiction or simple inordinate attachment to food (or any other creaturely pleasure) can see Eve’s battle in our own. We let Satan draw our eyes away from the incomparable riches of His grace, and onto what we don’t have, but suddenly crave with all of our being. Our marriage is crumbling, our kids are rebelling, our career is imploding, our ministry is dying, and suddenly a fridge, (or a bottle, or a website, or a risky investment,) is all we can see, offering all that we think we lack. We lose our sense of fulfillment in our identity as a child of God, and seek to find it through food – in gluttony or anorexia, in organic everything, in making every meal for our family or ourselves a microcosm of meaning. We look away from God and toward what He’s made, we eat, and we die.
When I think of how often we rehearse Adam and Eve’s deathly ritual of a disordered perspective on food in our daily life, I can’t help but marvel at the mercy, the kindness, the brilliance of Jesus’ gift of a restored perspective on food in Communion. In the giving of bread and wine, to His disciples in the upper room, and to His people whenever we meet together, Jesus does for His bride what Adam neglected to do for his. Jesus reminds us, with the bread and wine, and with His words, where true fulfillment, true life, is to be found. In Communion, Jesus undoes the fatal distortions of Eden and refocuses our spiritual field of vision for food as a picture of our true life in Him, instead of death in our sin.
In Eden, Adam and Eve made food about themselves.
In His Supper, Jesus reminds His people that food was always, and is always, about Himself.