Thursday, August 28, 2014


One of the things that bothers me about the Fall is that God offers no answer for shame.

Adam, Eve, and God are living in blissful wholeness in the Garden. Eve is seduced by the serpent, eats a piece of fruit, shares with her Adam, and all of a sudden, they both realize they are naked. It's interesting in and of itself. They have just eaten the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the only thing they seem to have gained knowledge their shame. Is it true, then, that the only true evil in the world is one's own exposure?

That's kind of neat to think about, isn't it? Man eats a piece of fruit that's supposed to give him the eyes to see the broken things, and the only broken thing he sees is himself. He understands, for the first time, that while God is love, man is not pure love. Man has the capacity for so much less than love. And as he comes to understand his brokenness, the knowledge of Good reveals God's wholeness. Man suddenly realizes all that God is, and all that he (man) is not, and he is ashamed of his lesser nature. 

Anyway, that might be something fun to dive into at another time, but that's enough to chew on for now. Let's get back to the story. 

Adam and Eve have eaten the fruit and realize, for the first time, that they are naked. Aside from all of the levels of meaning inherent in that, they do what seems rational - they hide. They stitched a few fig leaves together to cover themselves, then hid in the bushes anyway, hoping God would not see them...or their new wardrobe.

It's always amazed me that they knew just which parts to cover with their crude cloths, or maybe it's just our interpretation of this passage that makes us think they got it "right." Maybe in another culture, the story goes that they sewed cloths for their feet. Or their heads. Or...whatever. But for most of us, we envision the traditional coverings. Fig leaves of the most intimate variety.

It's not so much of a stretch, really. If shame is their trouble, and if they've just discovered their lesser nature, it makes sense that the parts of themselves they wish to cover are the very parts responsible for life. The man covers the mechanism of his seed; the woman, the access to her egg. If she covered her breasts, it was because these, too, are a source of life - nourishment for a newborn - but I don't think there is any reason to believe (other than our own comfort) that Eve was nearly as concerned about her breasts as she was her egg. Man discovers he is not pure love, and therefore, he is not pure good, and instinctively shields his capacity for life. 

God finds him in the bushes, and man dares speak those haunting words: I heard you coming and I was ashamed because I was naked, so I hid.

This is where God starts to bother me. Because I really needed Him to speak to shame.

I needed God to pull Adam and Eve out of the bushes, rip the crude cloths off their most intimate places and remind them that just a few minutes ago, this was still "good." That God created them this way, and it was okay until they for some reason came to understand that it wasn't okay. I needed God to tell them that they couldn't be pure love if they hoped to be love at all because love cannot be the nature of anything; it must be a choice. I needed God to tell them that even in their most intimate places, where the grossest stuff of life happens (am I right?), life could still spring forth and that life could be okay. I needed God to say shame in this critical moment. 

But He doesn't. He asks a simple question - Who told you that you were naked? - and you can almost hear His holy heart breaking. He knows shame is going to be the death of us, and it breaks His heart. Man, who has known truly the best that Creation has to offer him, now knows the one thing Creation cannot heal - his own nakedness. His depravity. His lesser nature. With clear eyes, he gets it. He will never, in his own eyes, be "good" again. God can never convince him of this. Shame is all-consuming. And in this one moment when man so desperately needs God to say something to shame, God is painfully silent. With tender care, He makes more elaborate garments and gives them to man. Then, he pushes man out of the place where all things are "good," which can now only ever be a haunting reminder to a man that somehow, he doesn't believe he is any more.

It's not really that anything has changed. Man's design is not any different than when God first laid eyes on him and declared that he was "good." Man is still the same man. Only now, he knows that he is not a god. He knows his lesser places. He knows his lesser place. And it doesn't feel good any more. It feels...less. 

That's what shame does to us. It makes everything feel...less. And it's pervasive. In this very first moment when God should have spoken to shame, should have put it in its place, should have given man back a sense of himself, He didn't. He couldn't. There's not an answer that the heart will accept for shame. There's not a way of unknowing. There's no going back to "good."

So God did the only thing He could. With tender care, He made a new garment to help man feel more comfortable with himself, to hide the shame a little. Then He turned His face and, I believe, He wept. For a man who could not simply be restored. And finally, He promised that one day, somehow, He would do it anyway. He would make it okay. He would make things good again.

It doesn't always feel like enough.... But at least it's something. It's something we can hold onto in our moment of shame. It's a promise from God, from the God of promises, that it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay.

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