Once upon a time I envisioned Adam and Eve’s fall to be a magical, mystical encounter. When Eve ate the fruit, I imagined the barrier that shielded her eyes from sin was supernaturally lifted, so that the ugly truth of the world was instantaneously revealed. I wondered how God had not felt such a rift in the space-time continuum. Now that I have had some life experiences – some shameful life experiences – I see that the fabric of creation was not changed. What changed was Eve. Before this event, Eve had only known obedience, and her obedience kept her safe, fed, and in close companionship with God. But once Eve crossed the line – once she disobeyed, the experience of shame became a reality for her. Shame is a formidable foe – shame makes us feel vulnerable, exposed, as if the whole world can see the ugliness inside of us. Eve’s experience of shame made her feel vulnerable and exposed. It wasn’t so much that she recognized her physical nakedness, but that her shame made her soul feel naked, and she desired to hide. Shame thrives in isolation. In reality, once our secrets are exposed, the thing causing the shame no longer has power over us and we can begin to heal.
What a lovely scene that might have been, had they not sinned – God, strolling in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, looking for God’s companions for company. Just beyond this story is God’s response to their sin. On first glance, harsh, but on second look God’s response saved them. God knew there was, in the garden, a tree of life. If Eve and Adam had eaten from the tree of life in their state of sin and shame, that would have been their fate for all eternity. To protect them, God banished them from the garden. God cursed the serpent. God cursed the ground. God never cursed Eve or Adam. God still loved them, and I imagine it pained God to see God’s children living with the pain of their shame. Still, the pain was theirs, and God could not take it from them. God would spend the rest of this world’s time offering forgiveness and love. Why, then, do we insist on holding on so tightly to our shame?
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.