“Where are you?” He calls out in the Garden. “I miss you. Why are you not walking freely in what I have created for you to enjoy?” Adam, hiding in the thickness of the trees. His heart, pounding. The sickness in his stomach as he hears the footsteps getting closer. His thoughts racing, “What is this feeling? I have never felt this before. Every inch of soul is longing to step out from behind these trees, to walk beside Him hand in hand again, but something is paralyzing me. What is this paralyzing feeling? My heart feels a deep sadness.” Silently weeping. Unable to move. Why can I not bring myself to be in His presence? “Adam, Where are you?” God calls out again.
Shame. The overwhelming, paralyzing effects shame has on our lives. The devastation it causes. The separation. The heartbreak at a soul level. Our identities shattered. Can we talk about shame? Can we talk about how shame wreaks havoc in our lives and the lives of those around us? How it is dividing our families, our communities, our nation, our world.
Can we talk about how we have become so accustomed to it, it’s actually second nature for us to sit in our shame and allow it to separate us from our true purpose and calling? Can we talk about how shame is causing spiritual death? Pushing us further and further into the depths of despair.
Can we talk about shame? In order to talk about shame, we have to go to the very beginning. We have to understand who we really are, and what we were created for. Let's take it to the very beginning. Genesis 1:27-28a, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God, He created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them.” Reading further down, Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So he causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and creates Eve from Adam's rib. We land in verse 25, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and felt no shame.” We have to understand the beginning in order to even engage the conversation around shame. Hear this: shame is used as a weapon by the kingdom of darkness to rob us of our true identities and purpose. We are made in the image of God, sons and daughters of the Most high King. Beautifully and wonderfully made. We are Image Bearers. We are blessed by God. We were created to be in close communion with both God and others. It is not good for us to be alone. We, by the very Creation story, are Garden of Eden people. This is who we were created to be at the beginning. We cannot talk about shame, without talking about spiritual warfare. Shame’s sole purpose is to rob us of this identity. It separates, divides, isolates and eventually if we give fully into it, it gives way to spiritual death. Yes, these are powerful words to use, but the gravity of what is going on in the world around us, the dire shape our society is in, leads me to sit here and type with a sense of urgency. We live in a fallen world. You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to look at the world around you and see that it is fallen, fragmented, polarized, and gripped by trauma. You see, we are so used to the levels of trauma and fragmentation that we dismiss most of them. Unless it is a grave abuse of life, then we may shed a tear as we keep scrolling. We have a callousness around us, an apathy towards the suffering of people around us.
A hopelessness that says, “what can I possibly do?” Division. Polarization. Fragmentation. Isolation. Resentments. Comparisons. This is the undercurrent of the world we live in. A fallen broken world, that has allowed shame to separate us from the Love of the Father. That is shame’s main goal. It’s why we cannot talk about shame without talking about the deeper war at hand. Do you see? Do you see how easily we fall prey to the very playbook the kingdom of darkness has. It has one goal. It’s goal is to keep you from seeing and experiencing the Love of Jesus. Why? Because if you don’t experience the love of Jesus and you continue to believe that He is the root of all your afflictions, then you remain disconnected from Him. You continue to believe that you are not lovable. That if God only knew what you have done in your life, He couldn’t forgive you. The kingdom of darkness’ main goal is to keep you from the Love of the Father, in order to keep you from a relationship with Him. A relationship that brings life abundantly. A life that brings restoration, redemption, healing, wholeness. Even in typing, I catch myself saying, ‘that’s too good to be true.’ Ah, but I am here to tell you from my own experiences that it is very true! If I could sit across a couch from you, I would tell you how abundant and whole my life is today, how truly free I am, even in my brokenness and my struggles, I am walking in a freedom I never thought imaginable. So, I’ll ask again and again, Do you see it? Do you see where you have partnered with the kingdom of darkness to keep yourself from experiencing the Love of the Father? So, let's talk about shame.
Back to Genesis 3:9, “But the Lord God called out to the man, ‘Where are you?” God knew where they were. He is omniscient. He knows everything. He was inviting them, Adam and Eve, back into relationship with Him. “Where are you?” He knew they were hiding. He knew where they were hiding. But He knew that they were cut off from His presence, and He knew that was detrimental to them. It is detrimental to us to be cut off from the presence of God. Continuing the conversation, Adam responds by saying, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (3:10) Fear of exposure. That fear is so deeply ingrained in us as humans. It's the nightmare of standing on a busy street corner in the middle of the day completely naked. We all fear the exposure of our most vulnerable selves. Even the thought of this, begins to stir an uncomfortability within me, within us, if we’re being honest. We all have areas that we have sworn would never see the light of day. Experiences, secrets, that we ‘will take to our graves.’ The places that lead us to say things like, “If they only knew...” Fear of exposure keeps us cut off from relationships with others, and more importantly, it keeps us from experiencing the Love of the Father and being in communion with Him. The very thing our soul deeply desires. The very thing we were created for.
I love this story. I love the Genesis story, because of the interaction between Adam and God. God continues to pursue and continues to invite Adam back into relationship with Him through curiosity. God isn’t abrasive or condemning. He’s gentle. He’s curious. He allows Adam to admit what he did without a sense of shame. Please hear this: SHAME IS NOT OF GOD! You don’t hear God shaming Adam and Eve at all here. In fact it’s the complete opposite. To Adam's response of fear, God says, “Who told you, you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (3:11) Again, there is no condemnation in this interaction, only invitation. Invitation to repent, to be restored to relationship, and right standing.
If I could be so bold and go so far as to say, God is contending for Adam's shame in this interaction. Shame that leads to isolation, division, violence. Shame ultimately leads to death. Yes, this may seem like a grandiose explanation of shame, but only because we are so apathetic and numb to the effects it really has in our lives, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world around us. Don't you see it? Don’t you see that we have been tricked once again by the same serpent that tricked Eve in the garden. The same playbook that was used at the beginning of Creation to divide us and separate us from experiencing the Love of the Father, is still being used today. Instead of being outraged by it, we’re accustomed to it. We have adopted countless other ways to deal with our shame. The accuser comes in and accuses our very identity by holding shame in our face. Telling us we are unworthy. Telling us we already messed up, why even keep trying? Once we have succumbed to those lies, he then dangles before us a plethora of other ways to deal with our shame. Things like self righteousness, “it wasn’t my fault, they did it.’ Things like gluttony: emotional eating, alcoholism, consumerism, materialism, sexual immorality ect...We desperately move from one coping mechanism to the next trying to fill the void. Missing the mark every time. What we are really longing for, what our soul is deeply desiring is to be restored again in right standing to God and from that to ourselves and in our communities. Dignity. Shame attacks the very dignity and honor that is rightfully ours because we are made in the Image of God. We are image bearers therefore we hold a certain level of God’s sovereignty. Not to be used as a prideful, holier than thou, attitude, but to be used in understanding our worth and our place in the world. What we were created for. What our purpose in life is. Do you see it? Shame attacks us on such a deep level, and the effects are catastrophic! I’ll say it over and over again, it cuts us off the Love of the Father. Hear this: It robs us of our spiritual birthrights. It’s why we cannot talk about shame, without talking about spiritual warfare. They go hand in hand. Let’s go to the end of the interaction between them. Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” He restored their dignity. Their best version of restored dignity was sewing fig leaves together. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see that as a very permanent solution. God, in his goodness, clothed them and in doing so restored their honor and dignity. Where has shame taken your honor and dignity? Where have you sewed fig leaves together in hopes to cover your most vulnerable areas, only for them to rot, fall off and you having to cover again with a different version of a fig leaf? Do you see it? Do you see how the serpent has convinced us that the fig leaves we wrap our lives in, are somehow ‘good’? But do you see how we are dying inside? Do you see it? How then do we reconcile our shame? We follow in Adam's example, we step out of hiding and back into relationship with God. We get vulnerable. We risk exposure, knowing that God will restore our dignity. He does it over and over again in the Bible. The stories in the gospels of healing and restoration. Israel's story. Moses story. Our story. We hand over our fig leaves and allow Him to clothe us in His dignity. His honor. Restoration is the goal. It’s always been the goal. It’s why Jesus went to the cross, and took all of our sin and shame with Him. He contended for our shame, so we could be restored to perfect communion with Him. He is still contending for our shame. Asking us to step out of where we are hiding. Inviting us back to walk side by side in His presence. Completely vulnerable. Fully
Exposed. Basking in the warmth of His glory engulfed in His love that He pours out on us. Wholeness. Complete. Fulfilled. Unashamed.