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We have some friends who had a beautiful home on a lake. The only problem was out of that beautiful, peaceful lake came some very unwanted snakes. In the summer snakes would come out of that lake and take up residence in their back yard. One of their puppies and a snake tangled up more than once. Fortunately, the puppy got the best of the snake every time. The last time was very touch and go, very costly for them financially and emotionally, but the puppy eventually recovered. The snakes were such a problem that they decided to sell their home and build a new one. It had gotten where in warm weather they could not enjoy their beautiful backyard. Even though they had a large fenced yard, they had to take the puppies out on a leash every time they went outside.   Their backyard went from being a paradise they frequently enjoyed, to a fenced in prison no one could visit without being very conscience of their whereabouts. The snakes made them re-adjust the way they lived their lives and what they were comfortable doing.

Their experience with snakes made me think of the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. You know the serpent in the story lied to Eve about who she was. The serpent further lied to her about who God was. Which made me wonder just how many voices do we allow to speak into our lives to tell us and help us develop our own personal stories. Stories about ourselves, about how God sees us and about how God feels about us.

This world is filled with voices, speaking into our hearts and lives. Some are of God and some are not. I suspect God allows multiple voices to be alive and well because he places such a high premium on freedom of choice. The problem is we have to be careful about which voice we allow ourselves to listen to.   Which voices we decide to believe.

There are a couple of things about the Garden of Eden story that strike me. First, Adam and Eve were in the garden, naked, unashamed and enjoying a personal relationship with God. Then they tangle with the serpent and become ashamed and afraid of God. Which makes me wonder exactly what happened. But I think the secret could be found in the third chapter of Genesis, when God is calling out to Adam and Eve and they hide from him “because they are naked and afraid”. Then God asks an important question, they never really answer. God says “who told you that you were naked”. I suspect it was the serpent who told them. But regardless, it certainly was NOT the voice of God that told them. You see I think the lesson here could be that when we allow voices, other than God or godly voices, to speak into our lives, we become afraid. The serpent told them they were something other than what God told them they were … they believed it and their reality took a 180 degree turnabout. Lies have a way of undermining faith and breeding fear. And be clear, faith and fear cannot co-exist. When we hold tight to beliefs that are not of God, even if we think they are of God, we live in fear. God is love and perfect love casts out all fear. The parallel here is if you are living in fear, you are listing to the wrong voices. People who self-identify as Christians, yet spew out hatred, are simply living in fear. People who self-identify as Christians who do not love their neighbor, are simply living in in fear. People who self-identify as Christians, yet kick their gay child out of their home, are simply living in fear.

Which brings me to my final thought. What is it you have been told, that I have been told, that is something contrary to what God has said? Instead of God calling out to us and saying “who told you that you were naked” He is calling out saying “who told you that you were unlovable? Who told you that you were an abomination? Who told you that God does not love you? Who told you that you are unworthy? Who told you that you are not welcome at the table of God? Who told you that you must abide by a list of rules in order to gain favor with God? Who told you that you are going to hell for something innate, inborn that is out of your control? Who told you??? Who. Told. You.

Just like it did at my friends beautiful home … The snakes in our lives make us re-adjust the way we live our lives and what we are comfortable doing. So if voices in your life begin to instill fear in you. Begin to heap shame on you. Do not listen to them! They are lying as sure as the serpent in the Garden of Eden lied.

Do not accept lies about yourself. Do not accept lies about God. And certainly do not accept lies about your worth or relationship to God. The truth is God loves you inexhaustibly, unconditionally, and relentlessly just as you are right this moment. If someone tries to tell you differently, look them straight in the eye and see them for the serpent they are and quickly separate yourself. Quickly. Because your soul is FAR too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s fear.