I have grown increasingly fond of the above painting by the artist Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930). Her depiction of Eve in garden right after taking bite of the forbidden fruit invites us to ponder the devastating reality of our bondage. When I’ve shown this image to a Bible Study class and asked them what thoughts come to mind when looking at it or what feelings seemed to be drawn out by such a painting the answers are usually the same. It usually begins where we might think; remorse, shame, guilt – after all there she is broken by what she has done, devastated by a new life in opposition to the Word of God. But as the class talks it over, sooner or later someone always says it, “She looks all alone.”
The serpent had told her that if she ate she wold be like God, knowing good and evil. And so she is! No one to call out to, no one to trust in for she has become like a god and she can only look to herself, worship herself and trust in herself – she is alone. Incurvatus in se as Luther said, curved in one oneself – this is the heart of our bondage. We are not forced unwillingly to do something we do not want to do. We do what we want! There are no need for shackles hauling us off into prison, we make our prison exactly as we want it, we decorate the walls and arrange the furniture believing we are free in our curved in life. The nature of our bondage is simply this, we are bound to do what we want!
What is it then that we have to offer Eve in this painting? Could any act of hers ever cause her to deny her own prison? Could any exhortation or motivation by us turn her outwards away from herself?
No, the only thing that will change this reality is the invasion of the Holy Spirit. Only when he breaks into our curved in self can we see the prison for what it is. Only by his work can we be truly free and when we are free in Christ we are never alone.