Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Gen. 3:8-10; NIV)
In high school there was one class I ditched for nearly two weeks, and if I saw the teacher walking down the hall, I'd take a right-angle turn to avoid her. The reason I was ditching her class was because I was required to deliver a verbal presentation on some topic, and I was terrified to stand up and speak in front of people (the memory makes me smile). The reason I avoided her was because I felt guilty about ditching her class, though I had a plausible (but totally made up) excuse. It eventually caught up with me and I had to serve detention. I was afterward compelled to attend her class and give the class presentation, and even if it didn't go very well, in the end, it was a relief not to have to avoid her in the hallway.
When I read this passage from Genesis 3, it reminds me of that feeling. It's a feeling I've had many times, as I've decided to do things my way and not God's. I have spent months, even years, hiding from him.
Adam wasn't hiding because he was embarrassed to be naked. He hadn't learned about rejection yet, and without rejection, there isn't embarassment. I don't think anyone, even today, would feel embarrassed simply because God looked at their naked body (which he does, every time you're in the shower, by the way). Adam was hiding because he felt shame. Shame is not embarrassment. Shame is a negative, convicting awareness of failure. He was aware of his nakedness, but it was only because he had disobeyed God. By eating of the fruit, Adam had gained something, but it was something not to be gained out of our own will. Knowledge of good and evil that comes by God's gift and timing, as we yield to his sovereignty, is different than what we might grasp for ourselves out of disobedience and a desire to set our own standards for morality. Adam achieved a new awareness, but at the cost of losing his reliance on the God who had made him, who walked with him through the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
Sin separates us from God. We hear that said often, in sermons, and it's a recurring theme in scripture following the events in Genesis (see Isa 59:2). But the work of Christ restores us; if you repent of your sins, God's grace covers us and you can draw near to him again (Rom. 5:12-17).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9; NIV
Nothing is more important to God than that, restoring the relationship he always intended to have with men and women. The problem is not the sins we repent of, but the sins which we don't. This includes sins we refuse to face. Those sins might be recurring. Things we keep secret. It is a barrier to drawing near to him, even for Christians.
During the years I went my own way, I found I couldn't pray much. It was easier to avoid him and just stay focused on work, or one of a number of distractions I allowed into my life. Because the alternative was to face him with all my sin and own it, and that meant I didn't get to do what I wanted. So I didn't go to him with my sin. I hid. And I lived with and accepted the knowledge that I was far from him.
Just believing in Christ is not enough. You must go to him.
If you do not, the consequence is more than feeling ashamed. You miss out on his blessings and transforming power. You exchange true fulfillment and joy for whatever satisfaction there is in calling your own shots. It's a bad trade.
I see two ways to get past this. One way is to fail miserably, to end up hitting rock bottom as a result of our pride. God does allow us to suffer the consequences of sin, as believers, and I think if we're stubborn, this is often the only way to get through to us. When we are broken and helpless as a result of our foolishness, we may finally turn to him. The other way is to make a list of the sins you are hiding, and one by one, submit each of them to God. That also means you need to stop doing them, by the way. I personally don't know if that works. My lessons have all come the hard way. If you are in a spot where you know you are hiding, but have not yet had everything crash down around you, I hope my words reach you in time.
There is a vision I want to share with you, walking with him through the garden, in the cool of the day. You, and the God who made you and loves you. It is not my vision. It is his vision.