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  • Writer's pictureElevate Church

Re-scripting Your Life, Part 3

In the last post we left off with looking at the ramifications of living life with fear being the primary orientation for our relationship with God. If that is the case, what comes in right on the heels of fear?

Enter... Shame

Back to Genesis, chapter 3… The account here tells us that two things happened to the mind of man in the moment after the Fall. The first thing we are told happened was that they FELT SHAME. I believe that at this moment the human brain shifted its primary wiring network of truth/trust based thinking to be feeling/emotional based (more on this when we look at the brain healing process of renewing the mind). Truth is truth regardless of what we feel about it. Truth orientation will allow us to put aside any emotions/feelings that contradict it and act in ways consistent with truth. If we have a feeling/emotional orientation, we will make our decisions based on personal internal truth perceptions from past experiences (rather than absolute truth) that produced negative outcomes by associating the situations that caused pain with the feelings/emotions that came with it.

The very first “feeling” that humans had with this new orientation was shame. Shame is a base or primary emotion that is the genesis of a whole host of self-focused, self-critical emotions and feelings. This word shame as used in the scriptures describes a condition where there is a deep sense of having failed to measure up to expectations of either self or others (in this case, God’s expectations of trust and obedience) and that the failure is attributed to the lack of ability or worth of the one having the emotion. It is not merely feeling like one has failed- it is a deep-seated core belief that one is actually a failure. In terms of core beliefs, what one believes that he/she IS determines what one will always BE. A core emotion of shame is the first emotional step away from security and significance and opens the door to what comes next.

When Adam and Eve took a good look at the situation and themselves there was an automatic reaction to deal with the situation that they now felt totally responsible to correct. Their first impulse was to run for cover and hide- the first human fight/flight response. The covering took the form of hiding their most obviously different anatomical features from each other behind fig leaves and then to hide from God’s presence in an attempt not to have to face their shame directly with God. They could not really hide from God (I think they knew that) but at least they could put some space between them and having to look God in the eye in this condition.

If we take some focused time in a detailed study of this account as it is rendered in the Hebrew text we will see deeper into the reasons for and the depth of the pain and shame Adam and Eve felt. A careful examination of this passage will reveal the broken-hearted Creator crying out in lament for the state of His beloved creation. In the account, immediately after the fall, the text tells us that Adam and Eve heard the “voice of the Lord” walking in the garden. How is it that the voice of the Lord was walking? That phrase can mean something like this… Adam and Eve heard the booming lament of the Lord rushing like a wind throughout the garden. God, it could be said, let out a powerful sigh (the source of the wind) that was rushing throughout the garden. When Adam and Eve heard the pain in God’s voice it must have rendered a gut-wrenching blow to their souls and an overwhelming sense of having disappointed their loving Creator must have swept over them.

God asks the question, “Adam, where are you?” God knew where Adam and Eve were so this was not an investigative question. Nor was it a rhetorical question crafted to get Adam to mentally and emotionally locate himself, like “Adam, what were you thinking?” In the Hebrew, this entire question/phrase is the word “ay.” This word could be understood in modern terms where a common Yiddish expression derived from “ay,” “oy” is used. Oy is a term that could mean something like, “o, woe is me.” So in the Hebrew, God could be understood as saying, “O woe is me, what has happened to you Adam?” It was God lamenting the choice and fate of His precious children.

Adam’s response reveals what the new core belief behind their shame was. He tells God that “I was afraid because I was naked and hid from your presence.” Again, looking deeper into the Hebrew wording, the term “hid” carries the idea of being hidden or pulled into God’s bosom (rendering of the word hid) and thus, being pulled into His presence. After the Fall, Adam was aware that God may not want to pull him into His bosom any longer as He was most likely terribly angry at Him. So Adam took matters into his own hands and hid himself - what we might call today “self-medicating” behavior.

God’s question back to Adam was, “who told you you were naked, did you eat the fruit?” Here is the moment of truth. God is giving Adam an opportunity to confess and repent and run back to Him; to be hid once again in God’s bosom. What could have happened if he had done that?

However, Adam’s answer… “That woman you gave me…” empowered the shame, which introduced and unleashed the infamous blame-game into human relationships.

Adam’s shame was such a powerful emotion that it actually triggered an automatic self-preservation behavior process to the point that he willingly threw the love-of-his life wife out from behind the trees to face God for him! The rest of the blame-game is just academic and sets up how shame would control human behavior going forward.

Adam’s mention that he “was afraid” is the key to our understanding of this new, destructive life orientation. This word fear, as used in this scripture, carries with it two powerful thought processes. Fear indicated that Adam was now afraid of God (unsure if He was really good) and of how He would respond to their choice. After all, God did say that if they ate the fruit they would die. Was God going to kill him for what he had done? At least, God was surely going to punish him for his disobedience. What form would this punishment take? Would it be torture? Would it hurt? Would it last forever? Was all hopeless? These questions created a thought process we now call anxiety - worrying about the unknown and uncontrollable because of gaps in our trust of God. This aspect of fear set up a punishment-based relationship between God and man that affects our ability to have peace with God and to be totally secure in His love. The primary need for security was now hanging in a tenuous balance of: do right, be right, or else! Rather than the divine truth of the perfect love of God casting out all fear, we struggle with the twisted truth of perfect behavior casts out all fear in our relationship with God.

The second aspect of this fear was that it created an awareness that man would now be responsible for his own survival and success. Since Adam now knew the difference between good and evil, he is now going to have to make all the right choices to make this work. What happens if he makes the wrong choice? What happens if he is not smart enough, strong enough, tough enough to see this through? Will he always be a failure? This core belief sets in motion the process that fallen man must find and maintain his significance by performing well, or at least better than the next guy. A performance-based relationship with God is always striving for success in order to get God’s (or people’s) approval and get a passing grade to maintain the relationship. The core thought is: perfect performance casts out all fear of being unacceptable to God and others.

From this vantage point, God allows the story of mankind’s struggle with these two false core beliefs to be recorded in the pages of His book, the Bible. This record shows us God’s eternal patience and compassion for humanity as He is setting in motion the plan of redemption that would reset our orientation and heal the sin-sickness of the human soul. God could have abandoned humanity, but He chose to walk with us and work with us until He could finally live within us.

This work was not only a rescue mission, it was also a renewal mission. The Father sent His Son to seek and save ALL that was lost. We lost not only our way, we lost our minds in the process!

by Pastor Jim Anan

Elevate Church

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