The Healing of Intimacy
She had been told not to do it, but his words were enticing and made sense. The serpent hissed, “You will surely 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.”
The words reverberated through her mind: “For God knows that when you eat of it…”and suspicion arose.
Was God holding out on her? Why couldn’t she eat from the tree – why couldn’t she have this knowledge?
“You will be like him….”
“I will be like him,” she thought. She wanted this – she wanted her eyes to be opened, to assert her own destiny, to know something more.
Can we fault her? With all the sagacity of hindsight, we modern readers may frown upon Eve and think, “What a fool!” How could she not trust God and instead listen to a serpent? The serpent suggests that God is threatened by Adam and Eve, that he wished them blind and removed from him. Could Eve not detect the subversion in the serpent’s words? Did his suave demeanor make her fail to consider the goodness of God in creating her, and the power he must possess to have fashioned not only her but the entire world? Somehow, Eve was persuaded that the one who had created her did not have her best interest at heart, but instead wanted to bind her wings and shut her in the dark.
In the face of God, Eve’s doubts seem unreasonable, though I recognize how her questioning of God is similar to my own. Often just a peep of suffering, the slightest of setbacks, or the ache of waiting for an answer to prayer, leads me to question him. I ask, “Where are you? Why are you withholding this from me? Why do you hide yourself from me? Why am I suffering? Why can’t I feel your presence? Where are the gifts in my life?” And on the questions go. At the heart of each question is a fundamental distrust of God’s goodness – of his desire to bless me. By listening to the serpent’s words, Eve reveals that she does not trust God’s desire to bless her, thus she tries to bless herself; she takes fruit from the tree, gives it to her husband, and both of them eat of it.
The effects of their disobedience were immediate: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Only a short while earlier, before they ate from the tree, “the man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” In the purity of God’s fellowship and while still cocooned in obedience, they were comfortable with themselves and God. They could share their hopes candidly, speak without fear of the other’s judgment, and fondly await the cool of the day when the Lord would walk with them. But after having sinned, everything changed. Instead of blissful transparency, there was shameful nakedness. Nakedness, at its core, implies vulnerability. The body lies bare when it is unclothed. The naked body is not only physically vulnerable, to the elements and injury, but also emotionally vulnerable. Intuitively we know we shouldn’t expose our nakedness to just anyone because our bodies are unique and profoundly “self.” Thus for one’s body to be exposed is for one’s very self to be endangered. Adam and Eve felt this danger, first with one another, then with God.
Because they had acquired the knowledge of evil through eating from the tree, Adam and Eve now expected evil from each other. The word “knowledge” is derived from the Hebrew word “yada,” which is used to indicate an intimate or personal understanding of something.1 Because God is omniscient, having a higher form of knowing than humans, he knows what evil is without ever having to experience it. He knows that he is life, and that he is good. Anything not of him is the opposite: death. Thus when one goes against him, one chooses death. But Adam and Eve were not omniscient. The only way for them to realize the consequences of going against God was for them to actually disobey him. Experience is a form of knowledge and it was the act of eating from the forbidden tree that gave them a personal, intimate understanding of evil. Their subsequent loss also made plain that their original obedience to God in the abstinence from the tree was good. Now that they had broken God’s law, they were vulnerable to the evil that is death. Upon sinning, they died spiritually, and once this happened, they were neither safe emotionally nor physically. Fear, and all of its associations – danger, suspicion, etc., entered into their experience.
Though they were in the most intimate bond of human existence, marriage, they still mistrusted one another. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul states that no one abuses his own body but nourishes and treats it well.2 Eve was taken out of Adam – she is a part of him and he of her. Thus when Adam and Eve hid from each other in shame, they were in effect proclaiming, “I do not acknowledge you as my own, I do not trust you with my body. I do not trust you with myself. There is something to fear from you.”
In addition to their lack of trust of one another, Adam and Eve’s shame also revealed their own uneasiness about themselves. Though their very bodies were fashioned to represent God, they no longer reveled in bearing his image but thought of his creation, their bodies, as something to be ashamed of. They rejected God through the rejection of their bodies. Moreover, Adam and Eve’s sense of rejection manifested in their decision to hide from God. When God inquired of their whereabouts, Adam responded, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Their hiding from God provides further information about their fear of vulnerability. We can understand Adam and Eve’s mistrust of each other after they had sinned and became capable of hurting one another. However, their suspicion of their perfect Creator reveals the extent to which fear had become embedded in them; they now harbored a near irrational desire for self-preservation at all costs, even to the point of severing emotional connections with others. Spiritually dead to God, they wanted no deep connection with him, and hid not only because they feared emotional intimacy with him, but also because they were afraid of being punished for their disobedience.
But God showed them mercy, and did not let them suffer fully for what they had done. Instead, he covered their shame better than they could themselves. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” In God’s act of taking garments of animal skin to clothe them, he foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who fully restores humanity back to intimacy with God and to each other.
Before I surrendered my life to God for the first time, I feared going to him because I was ashamed of my faults, of myself, and thought he would be disappointed with me. But I found he was able to cover my shame, just like he did with Adam and Eve. Tired of my own loneliness and unhappiness, I cried out to him, saying, “I can’t do this anymore, God,” and relinquished control of my life to him. From that moment on, God became more to me than just a disciplinarian in the sky. He became a loving Father. Hearing him call me “darling” and “precious child,” my fear of him was gone and was replaced by a daily confidence in his love. I was his daughter, whom he loved and adored. I received the spirit of “daughtership,” and by that spirit, cried “Abba, Father, Daddy.”3 My loneliness was exchanged for fellowship with God, and I gained the ability to trust others because of the love he had given me. When I cannot love, I look to the love he has placed in my heart, and I am able. Until Christ comes again to restore the world once and for all, I must continue to lean into this healing and trust in his eternal goodness.
Jesus took the punishment for our sins and gives all who put their faith in him an intimate relationship with God and a heart to connect with others. Adam and Eve broke the peace, and unforeseen consequences that still ravage the world today were unleashed; but Adam and Eve were not abandoned because of what they did. Even though they could not undo the damage they caused, they had the opportunity to be healed. God promised them and the world a coming Savior,4 and that Savior is alive today, waiting to heal all who call on his name.
2 Ephesians 5:29, ESV
3 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but
you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba!
Father!’” Romans 8:15, NIV
4 Genesis 3:15 NIV
Shana Dorsey, Super Junior, is from Jacksonville, Fla. and enjoys living in God’s presence, gaining insight into Scripture, and using the gift of prophecy to encourage believers.
Image: Detail from The Temptation and Expulsion by Michelangelo.Tags: creation, doubt, fear, God, mercy, shame, suffering