I have been thinking a lot about Adam and Eve recently, about why God created them (and us), what their sin was and why they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. In my mind I can imagine God, all three of him, in focused dialogue. Conferring, because they have this deep love that is so good that it begs to be expressed.
So they create. They create a community of beings that can share in their likeness. Beings that can love and be loved, beings that can co-create and enjoy all the purity and goodness that right relationship offers. Faithful and kind. Generous and trusting, seeking the good of others along with their own. It was perfect. It was whole.
Then that fateful day comes. The day that Eve is deceived, believing she ought to be more than what she was. It must have been awful, that moment she felt shame for the first time. It would have washed over her instantly. Fear, inadequacy, disgust and self-loathing all at once, demanding that she hide herself and shield the truth, demanding she pass responsibility onto another.
You know what I find fascinating about that story? I find it fascinating that Eve and Adam both hid from God, but God did not hide himself from them. He pursued them. He went out into the garden to find them, he called them out by name. He already knew what had been done and yet he was willing and able to face it, to forgive. It was Eve and Adam who played the blame game, who were unable to face the truth and find their freedom.
It begs the question, which was the greater sin? The disobedience or the shameful hiding?
I can close my eyes and see my daughter traipsing around the park, climbing behind trees and bushes. It isn’t long before she is completely hidden from our eyes, secluded and curled into an overgrown bush. She can’t be seen, as the branches, leaves and twigs encase her entirely and she makes no sound. She has hidden herself, much like Eve, a physical example of a spiritual reality.
This shared shame that sends us fleeing into the bushes continues to flow from generation to generation. We no longer know what it means to be loved without condition. All of our relationships are broken to varying degrees and we work hard to be lovable to our family, to our friends, and to our God.
I think that is why I have difficulty connecting with Christ’s work on the cross. The sacrifice becomes transactional in my mind because without it I am unknowable, unclean, and gross. God cannot look at me or love me without it. In the end I feel guilty and compelled to repay the sacrifice with my own service.
There is no victory in that, only obligation.
But when I close my eyes and envision Eve, cowering in the bush, filled with shame, believing that what she had done was unforgivable, I hear God. He is calling out to her, and he is calling out to me.
There is no anger in his voice, no disappointment, no piling on of shame, for his desire is not that we run and hide, losing our place in his world. His desire is that we run back home, into his arms, into love itself, fully forgiven.
Jesus Christ suffered on that cross, shed his blood willingly, so that we would have no excuse to continue hiding. It makes me wonder how much of his death was to fulfill God’s need for justice and how much was to remove any obstacles in our own minds.
Either way we have no excuse. We have no excuse to keep hiding and cowering behind ideals that aren’t true. We could continue to believe we are unforgivable, that we owe too much or that we aren’t worth the sacrifice, but our creator God believes the opposite.
As Henry Nouwen says, “God loves us before any human person can show love to us. He loves us with a first love, an unlimited, unconditional love, wants us to be his beloved children and tells us to become as loving as himself.”
I don’t believe Christ’s death and resurrection was a means of obliging us to serve or a means for God the Father to look at us head on. Instead Christ Jesus’ death is a call to us. It is a call for us to come home, a call to remind us that we are chosen, holy, good and loved so immeasurably that it doesn’t matter what has been done or what will be done, he is always there, leading us, step by step, and his love never fades.
There is victory in that kind of love.
That kind of love calls to Eve as she tries hard to breathe. That kind of love meets us where we are, at any given time, with all the baggage that we carry around with us. It tells us to drop the lies that we have believed about ourselves and God.
It reminds us that there is no debt to be paid.
We are enough.
We are loved.
We belong to God.
And God is crazy good.
Do you believe God loves you no matter how much you serve him? In what ways are you seeking restitution before God?