Small Mistake, Great Loss

Yesterday was Super Bowl XLVIII, which pitted the incredible offense of the Denver Broncos against the great defense of the Seattle Seahawks. As an armchair Broncos fan, I was excited to see how Peyton Manning and his receivers would handle the pressure of facing some elite defenders. I fully expected to watch Peyton masterfully lead his team down the field for a TD at least once or twice in this game. What I didn’t expect was what happened. A mistake in the first 12 seconds of the game, leading to the first of Seattle’s points for the game. It was a small mistake, an errant snap that skitted past Manning and into the Broncos own endzone where one of the Broncos players fell on it for a safety. I can’t embed the video, but you can view it here if you didn’t see the play. The mistake put Seattle up 2-0, not an insurmountable lead, but something else happened in that moment.

I was a math major in college and tend to rely more on my logic than on my feelings, but when Seattle took the lead 12 seconds into the game, my feelings, my instincts, were telling me that the game was over. Something about that small mistake told me that the Broncos were in deep trouble. I tried and tried to convince myself otherwise, but no amount of logic could remove that feeling I was having. And that feeling turned out to be true. The Broncos NEVER got back into the game. The Broncos suffered a great loss.

But did that one mistake actually cause the downfall of the mighty Broncos? Did it get inside their head and cause them to lose focus? Or did something else happen? At some point, the wheels came off and the Broncos could not get them back on again.

I’m reminded of another small mistake. It comes from a very ancient story at the very beginning of the Torah. It is a story that piggybacks upon the story of the formation of the earth and heavens. The prime characters in this story are two humans named Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, a pristine garden where God came to walk amidst God’s creation. It was perfect. But in the middle of the garden was a tree that bore fruit. There was seemingly nothing overly unusual about this tree…except that God had told Adam and Eve that they were not to eat of its fruit. There were plenty of other fruit-bearing trees in the garden, so Adam and Eve would not have needed to eat from that tree in order to fill their stomachs. And it seems that at first they managed to avoid the tree.

But then a new character enters the scene. A serpent comes to Adam and Eve. The serpent tries to convince the couple to eat some of the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. At first, Eve objects. But then she gives in and takes a bite. And Adam doesn’t stop her. In fact, he follows with a bite of his own. A seemingly small mistake…biting into a piece of fruit that they were told not to eat. But the effects were massive…the fall into sin of the entire human race…the bringing about of total depravity.

This leads me to ask, Did that one mistake really cause the downfall of the entire human race? In the Super Bowl, I could sense that bad things were happening for the Broncos when they made that first mistake, yet I would never blame the entire lose on that single instance. At the same time, that mistake had a strong effect on the game. Adam and Eve made a mistake, but we can’t blame the downfall of humanity on them. Each of us contributes to the Fall every day when we sin, when we make small mistakes. Yet, at the same time, we can’t deny that Adam and Eve’s choice to eat that piece of fruit had an effect. Sometimes small mistakes lead to great loss. Thankfully, there is always tomorrow.

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