God longs for close encounters. Look no further than Genesis 2 if you don’t believe me. It’s an awkward scene for some of us. There, in this bare garden before any plant has sprung from the ground, God is creating the first human being, Adam. The story is told in such a way that it doesn’t require much imagination for us to envision God’s hands dirty from scooping up mounds of dirt in order to sculpt out every last detail of creation’s pinnacle. Can’t you see him stepping back, admiring what’s been made, and then taking one last breath before placing his mouth on Adam’s and breathing into him what’s called the breath of life? Now that’s a close encounter!
We were created for connection, but our default is disconnection.
When I was a little boy, maybe 5 or 6, my mother tells the story of me hiding in this brown wicker clothes hamper that had a lid on it anytime I did something wrong. If I knocked something over and broke it – off I went to hide in the clothes hamper. If I spilled juice on the carpet in the living room – into the clothes hamper I dove. If I “accidentally” wrote something on the wall with a stray crayon…well you get the idea.
Some kids hide under beds or in closets. Me? Apparently I hid in a clothes hamper!
It wasn’t long after God’s close encounter with Adam, and then not long after with Eve, that these first humans begin to push away. I used to believe Adam and Eve ran and hid in the bushes after eating the fruit from the forbidden tree because they were afraid of God. This could be true, but the more I think about it the more I’m convinced this doesn’t add up. Why would they be afraid of God? What had God done up to this point in the story (or at any point in their story) to cause them to think that God was anything other than good?
I’ve come to believe, instead, that their hiding isn’t driven by a fear of God, but by a fear of being seen by God – and if this is true, then what drives their behavior isn’t fear of God at all, but instead something called, SHAME.
We were created to connect, but our default is to disconnect.
Notice what Adam says when confronted by God’s question, “Where are you?” Adam doesn’t say, “I heard the sound of you in the Garden and I was afraid of YOU; so I hid” – That’s what I’ve always “heard” when reading this, even though that’s not what the text actually “says.”
No, here is what Adam actually says caused him and Eve to take flight: “I was afraid, because I was NAKED; so I hid.”
In other words, Adam and Eve aren’t afraid of God because they fear God’s fury. They’re afraid because they are naked and cannot bear to be seen by God in their current state. This is the epitome of shame.
Brene´ Brown, whose TEDx Talk (Houston) now has over 22 million views, defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of connection and belonging.”
Here’s the thing – we are flawed. If we’re honest, then we, above all people, know how easy it is to make a mess out of our lives and the lives of others at times. Even when we are trying to do something good or right, you might be a little like me and find ways to mess that up too!
And when we mess up, especially with God, many of us experience the kind of shame that Adam and Eve and countless others have experienced since that day in Genesis 3 – we run, we hide, and we fear being seen by God feeling as though we are now unworthy of connection and belonging.
We were created to connect, but our default is to disconnect and it’s our sense of shame that drives us from connection toward disconnection.
What I’ve come to love most about this story is God’s reaction, and it’s ultimately the reason why I believe shame is driving Adam and Eve to hide and not their fear of God.
I love how this story paints for us a God who comes down looking for Adam and Eve; how it shows us a God who doesn’t play the silly passive aggressive games we play when someone has done us wrong or disappointed us; how this God doesn’t seek them out in order to lash out against them with hatred or even judgment, but instead lavishes upon them this incomprehensible love. Perhaps this is what the apostle John has in mind when he says,“What manner of love is this that the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God?”
God still longs to connect to us, even when we feel disconnected to God.
There’s one other thing I think we miss in all of this – The closing scene. We often picture this final act as though a door is being slammed and the first couple are sent on their way to never hear from God again. We often picture a God who kicks them to the curb and is now standing on the front porch, eyes narrowed, arms crossed, and lips pinched tight unwilling to say a single word to them.
But this isn’t really what’s happening at all. Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden. There is no way to revise the history surrounding their decision to eat from the forbidden tree. One thing is clear – they are never to return.
Before they go, however, God hands them a parting gift – a new set of clothes to replace those laughable fig leaves they’ve put on to cover up their nakedness… er shame. What’s more, is that God, rather than acting as an angry Landlord who has shown them the door instead takes on the role of an eager Real Estate Agent. He takes them by the hand as it were and leads them away from the Garden and into a world that is still their’s to tend and care for. God now sends them on their way to be sure, but they are still to bear God’s image to the world around them and not the shame of their own nakedness.
So, here’s my question for the next few weeks: Are you willing to step out from behind whatever it is you’re hiding behind and be seen by God for who you are and in whatever state your life is in? I know that’s incredibly difficult to imagine for some of us especially given where we’ve been and what we’ve done.
After all, we were created to connect even though our default is to disconnect.