I read a Bible study on “Overcoming Fears.” The book asks “What were you afraid of as a child?”. Initially, the only thing I remembered was thinking that nighttime turned the neighbor’s bushes into big bears that were going to get me. (I eventually grew smart enough to know that it was only the wind making the bushes move.) Then I remembered, as a child I was also afraid of messing something up or getting in trouble.
I now find this realization curious, since I can probably count on both hands the times I actually got into any trouble while I was growing up. Then again, I did have perfectionistic tendencies. My first grade teacher told my parents that by the time I got my pencils arranged just the way I wanted them, most of my classmates were done with their worksheets.
I used to think college knocked my perfectionism out of me. I had realized that I could put pressure on myself and go nuts, or I could be a ‘B’ student and enjoy college. I chose the latter…and only occasionally felt guilty for it.
As it turns out, somewhere along the way “fear of messing up” morphed into “fear of not being good enough.”
In my early 20s, I worked in a university Career Services Office for about six months. Some co-workers were talking about students wearing black or navy business suits for their job interviews. I proclaimed that I would wear my red suit to stand out from the crowd. They rolled their eyes and told me that would be the wrong thing to do, but I shrugged it off. I thought they were stuffy and I didn’t care too much about what they thought of me.
In my 30s, I again worked for a university Career Services Office. This time it was for a prestigious graduate program and I was there for seven years. I learned about resumes, making first impressions, and all the right things to teach our students. Only this time, I grew paranoid about the stuffy black suits. Instead of being confident that I could be myself, I worried that I had to be “polished” and make the right impression on everyone I met.
I’m not blaming the job, in fact, it was my favorite. I loved helping students and watching them succeed. I realize now that I let knowledge instill fear instead of confidence in me.
I was talking to my husband, wondering aloud where these fears came from. He asked if I always needed to know “the why.” I said, “How could I fix it if I didn’t know the why?”.
In thinking about this, I felt like God was telling me to “Go back to the beginning.” Not the beginning of my childhood, but of His Word. I decided to read the first few chapters of Genesis in The Message for a fresh perspective.
Right away, two things jumped out at me. Genesis 2:25 says “The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame.” Now granted, they were the only two people on earth, but they wandered around outside naked and felt no shame! Can you imagine? Even in our so-called “liberated” culture today, being naked in public is controversial, and depending on where you are, illegal.
I believe Adam and Eve felt no shame in being naked because, as new creations, they were confident that they were as God intended them to be. I’m not saying Adam had washboard abs or that Eve had a perfect figure. I’m not saying that, because those are important to us, not God. (That’s a whole other blog!) My point is that when we are being who God intends for us to be, we have no reason to feel shame. While we may not walk earth naked as Adam and Eve did, we can walk in the freedom of being a child of God.
Our choices however, can take away our freedoms. In just seven short verses, Adam and Eve move from feeling no shame to hiding from God. God said they could eat from any tree in the garden, except one – the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and –Evil. There were many trees. They had lots of good choices. But Eve and then Adam chose instead to eat from the one tree God had said “no” to.
A clever serpent tricked Eve, she ate and then she shared with Adam. In Genesis 3:8 we read, “When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.” Bam! The first recorded time a human being has attempted to hide from God because they did something wrong.
As a child, if I wanted to hide from you, I ran to the corner of a room and covered my eyes. In my little girl mind I thought, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me!” Why I still bothered to run to the corner, I’m not sure. But Adam and Eve’s hiding technique was about as effective as my childhood one.
Genesis 3:9-13 says “God called to the Man: ‘Where are you?’
He said, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.’
God said, ‘Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?’
The Man said, ‘The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.’
God said to the Woman, ‘What is this that you’ve done?’
‘The serpent seduced me,’ she said, ‘and I ate.’”
Now we have the first recorded time a human being said they were afraid. That’s the second thing that jumped out at me. Adam was afraid because he knew he was naked – something he wasn’t supposed to know. He knew that he was naked because he had eaten from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and –Evil – something he wasn’t supposed to do.
I think God sent me to the beginning of His Word to teach me that the only time I need to be afraid is when I disobey Him. I think God sent me to the beginning to show me that being afraid and hiding don’t work.
God punished the serpent, then Eve, then Adam. I never noticed before that God spoke to them in order. He cursed the serpent to slink on his belly and eat dirt. He gave Eve the pain of childbirth and Adam pain in working the ground for food. God still allowed Adam and Eve the power to create life – through children and the food necessary to sustain them.
Then Genesis 3:21 says “God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them.” It doesn’t say how God made this clothing, but it would seem an animal was sacrificed. Many think that this act in the garden is God beginning the pattern of a blood sacrifice to forgive sin. Whether you believe that or not, it is surely an act of kindness by God to make clothing for Adam and Eve. He did not force them to continue to hide or be ashamed.
God is the same today. He does not force us to hide or be afraid or bear shame. Listen to a simple but wonderful truth. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16 MSG
The end of Genesis chapter 3 says that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. That appears to be cruel…unless you read the reason. “God said, ‘The Man has become like one of us, capable of knowing everything, ranging from good to evil. What if he now should reach out and take fruit from the Tree-of-Life and eat, and live forever? Never – this cannot happen!’”
God did not expel Adam and Eve from the garden to take away something good. He expelled them to protect them. Because Adam and Even ate from the Tree of Knowledge-of-Good-and–Evil, they knew more than they were meant to as humans. If they also ate from the Tree-of-Life, they would have to bear that burden forever. God expelled them from the garden to prevent that.
What God did for Adam and Eve, God will do for you and me. He will forgive us, take away our shame, and protect us. With God, you and I can live life, from the beginning to the end, unafraid!