Monday, September 05, 2011

When God Asks the Questions: who told you that you were naked?

Joining with Michelle at Graceful once again (HearItonSunday/UseItonMonday) and with Jen at Finding Heaven, (soli deo gloria sisterhood):

From the day we are born, we are destined to deal 
with the voice of shame in our lives, with the glare of guilt.
It is true that sometimes shame and guilt 
can be true feelings, helpful and humbling, 
drawing us in contrition to our loving God.
But most of the time, that guilty voice, 
 that shame-filled voice clangs inside our heads 
like an ugly echo of the serpent in the garden. 
The serpent who tells lies, 
lies that are buried within partial-truths. 
The serpent who twists and turns inside our heads, 
telling us that God cannot be trusted, 
yet encouraging us to 'be like God...' (Genesis 3:5) 

Do you ever wonder how the story might have turned out 
 if Adam and Eve had answered God's first question differently?
Remember, the one from last week?
"Where are you?"
What if they had said, 
"Here we are, Lord. Naked and ashamed. 
We did what you told us not to do - 
can you ever forgive us?" 

Instead, their 'eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked... 
 so they made coverings for themselves.' (Genesis 3:7)
And when God came looking for them,
looking for them because he missed them,
looking for them because he loved them,
what did they say?
What did they do?
Basically, they blamed God!
"I heard you in the garden," Adam says, 
  "and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid." (Genesis 3:10)
Say what???
They've been naked all along, right?
So just what was it that happened when they ate that weird fruit?

And that's exactly where God zeroes in when he asks 
 the second divine question in the book of Genesis:
"Who told you that you were naked?"

 Who told them, indeed.
It seems that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil 
 has a really short name - shame.
For it is here in the Genesis story -
which is truly our own story -
it is here that shame shows up.
It is here that we find the beginnings of embarrassment, 
 of fearful silence, 
 of feeling that we're somehow inappropriate, 
just because of who we are.
Of looking at ourselves and seeing 
not the beautiful, exceptional beings that we can be -
creatures of cosmic dust, formed into the very image of God -
 but seeing only our nakedness.
Our inadequacies.
Our failures.
Our brokenness.

For in the Hebrew text, the word used for 'naked' at the end of chapter two - as in, 
 'they were naked and unashamed' means exactly that: innocent, transparent.
But when Adam uses it in chapter three, it means something entirely different, something much more like:
"Oh, no!" - vulnerable, unguarded, exposed.
The shame of sin needed to come - deep sorrow for their actions, 
 contrition, cries of repentantance.
But shame over their nakedness?
That kind of shame comes straight from the serpent.
It is the kind of shame that can lead to hopelessness,
to endless cycles of ugly self-talk,
to an overwhelming sense of our fatal flaws.
It leads to hiding.
It leads to blaming.

Godly shame never takes us down this path.
 Good shame leads directly to the throne of grace,
to the foot of the cross,
to the gaping tomb of resurrection.
This kind of shame leads to redemption.

There is a gap the size of the Grand Canyon separating the response of: 
 "I am so, so sorry. May I receive your blessing?"
from: "I am no good, I am hopeless, I will never get anything right, 
 how can anyone, especially God, ever, ever love me?"

The latter is the work of the Holy Spirit within us, calling us gently to repentance.
The former is the work of that serpent, deafening us to the gentle voice of God.

Isaiah sings of trading ashes for beauty.
Colossians paints a word picture of new clothes, 
 the robes of righteousness with which we can 
 cover our nakedness and be made whole.
Can we choose to listen to the voice of Love rather than the voice of the serpent? Can we learn a new narrative - 
 a story of redemption and re-creation and beginning again?
Oh, I hope so.
Oh, I pray so.