Adolescents and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

I remember being 19.  It was heady.  I knew everything, had no fear, and I saw life as full of opportunity.  I was anxious to explore and couldn’t wait to get away from the chains that held me back.  I actually thought I was smarter than everyone else.  I was not open to advice, and I couldn’t wait to make my mark.  My only restriction, as I saw it, was money.  If I just had a cash flow, I would slay any dragon put before me.

Now, 30 years removed from that time, I’m watching someone I very much make decisions based on a similar worldview.  I am grieving the future loss of his innocence.

When I was 19, I knew I could try out some of my dreams, and if they didn’t work out, I’d just step back into my old life and continue on as if nothing had changed.  The problem with that thinking?  Everything changed.

Over the course of the next five years of my life, by the time I was 25, I had acquired experiences that changed me forever; I was enveloped by addictions that I still wrestle with, and some of my actions disqualified me for some of my current dreams.  I can’t go back, I can’t go home again, and because of those few years of my life, I’m no longer innocent.  I’ve tasted the forbidden fruit – and I’ll never be the same.

 “disobedience and lack of trust that changed her”

I don’t believe there was anything supernatural or magical about the fruit Eve took from the Serpent.  It was the disobedience and lack of trust that changed her.  It wasn’t the fruit.  God put the in the Garden in order to provide opportunities for character development, maturation, and choice.  Without choice, we are only robotic shells of what we can become.

Like the Dire Straits song, Love Over Gold (video), I was dancing through doorways, just to see what I would find.”  This is a great metaphor for my life as a firefighter.  We knew there was fire on the other-side of the doorway, but we had to go through the door to put it out.  And yet, we never quite knew what to expect as we crashed through those doors.

I did this in so many ways.  Relationships, food, travel, cars, alcohol, et cetera.  I made up my mind to turn my back on God, to never fear anything, and to try everything at least once.  (By the way, I stopped doing this before I tried “everything.”  The pain was too great and the rewards were too few.)  By the time I was 25, I had been married, divorced, and was well on my way to alcoholism – even if I didn’t realize it at the time.  It took me another 10 years to find God again – and I’m still struggling with the scars from those few years.

God asked Adam and Eve to avoid the Tree of of Good and .  He knew it wouldn’t be easy, so He gave them some tools and tips on how to avoid it and the accompanying temptations.  They still fell into the trap, and their lives, their relationship with God, and the future of the World would never be the same again.

is not for the faint of heart”

As parents, we seek to raise up our and prepare them for the challenges of life.  We try so hard, we slowly let go, we weep over them, pray for them, plead with them, and admonish them.  We discipline, challenge, lecture, and love.  But each day of their lives, they pull away just a little more.  Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

We hope our kids will trust our judgement and advice.  We hope they will avoid the temptations that nearly destroyed us.  We hope they will make good .  But for their whole lives they have other influences.  Everything tells them that they can be rich, beautiful, smart, powerful, attractive, and have fun doing it all.  All they have to do is reach out and take it.  It is all theirs for the taking.  They too, can be like a god – all they have to do is ______________________.  Take the fruit and eat it.

 It was at that moment that I began to die…

It was at that moment that Eve began to die.  It was at that moment that I began to die.  I can’t tell you exactly when that moment occurred – I’m not even sure there was a specific event.  Many events, from the age of 14 or 15, precipitated bigger steps into the world of the unknown.  I picked up speed and began to run towards the abyss of no return.  Until one day, there was no going back.

How can I prepare my kids for these choices?  How can I cast a vision that is bigger than sex, drugs, and rock’n roll?  How can I help them see past the immediate gratification of “having it all?”  How can I enable them to be fearless, without feeling restricted?  How can I help them understand that the forbidden fruit isn’t better than the un-forbidden fruit?  How can I help them see that they can be more, have more, enjoy more, and be more free – if they don’t give in to these temptations?

It is the same story.  It is hard to watch it unfold.


 The secret back-story.

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  1. Mike Hansen says:

    I Gary-good read. Sad facts. I lost my innocence, but had no idea I was losing it. That also makes one losing their innocence that much more sobering and sad. The idea of self awareness…does it have to take a lifetime to get it? Wow, I hope not.

    Hey, at least as parents since we’ve been through stuff, we can talk to our kids about it. We can write about it for them to see at some point. I had none of that while younger. Did you?

    1. gwalter says:

      No, I don’t think my Dad has ever been that self-aware.  Plus, he really wasn’t, and still isn’t, available to talk about this stuff.  I’d love to ask him questions, I’d like to quiz him and get parenting advice, I’d love to talk through misconceptions and struggles – but he just grunts.

      The other day, I told him, how much I love my kids and I imagine that even when they are adults, I’d still want to cuddle them.  I wanted to see if he felt that way.  His words/expressions were few, but I think he agreed.  That is the most response I’ve ever gotten out of him.


      While it is hard to watch my nephew go through this process – I am crazy about that boy – I’m not that close and have no real avenue for these sorts of conversations.  However, it does renew my interest in helping my own kids in this process, and enabling others (the proverbial Village) to connect with my kids in ways I never will.

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