When someone wants to take control of a situation, we sometimes say that they are “taking over the reins.” The image comes from the days of horse-drawn carriages when to take over the reins was to take control of the carriage the horse was
pulling. In Genesis 3, the man and the woman try to take over the reins of their own destinies, with disastrous results.
Chapter 3 is where everything in God’s good plan goes wrong. It is the hinge on which everything that is not right in the world turns. If we try to dissect and understand all that is going on in this scene, it is a very difficult passage to get through. So many questions arise. Talking serpents, forbidden trees and curses that seem an over-reaction to modern ears can distract us. Don’t get me wrong, these “odd” parts of the story are important, but we need not let them overshadow the meaning behind the story.
At its heart Genesis 3 is a picture not only of what has gone wrong with creation, but of what happens when any of us attempt to go our own way, instead of God’s – to take over the reins from the One who has them firmly in his grip. Temptations come from without and within and we yield to them, even when the boundaries have been made perfectly clear and what is right and wrong is plain to see.
We give in to temptation because we are fearful that God does not have our best in mind, or because we do not trust him or his ability to lovingly hold the reins of our lives. At the core of these attempts to wrest the reins from God’s hands are false beliefs about God – namely, that he is not strong enough or wise enough or loving enough to meet our needs and care for us. Worse yet, we may believe that God intends us harm or stands in the way of our true happiness.
As I read Genesis 3, I want to ask, “How could the man and the woman have given in? How could they not have known and trusted God more than they did? Why would they fall prey to the serpent’s words so easily? Of all people, shouldn’t they have known God well enough not to give in to these false beliefs about him? But then, I suppose someone could ask the same of me at times, as well. For when I look at the whole of my life and experience with God, I should know him well enough not to give in, too.
Loving God, forgive me when I attempt to take the reins from your hands, when I fail to trust you and your goodness toward me and all that you have made. Create in me a willing heart and a spirit that yields to the tug of the reins in your hands. I pray that this day I will stand strong in the face of temptation and rest securely in your wisdom and grace, leaving the reins in your hands, where they belong. Amen.