Article Written by Michael Bolland
In great calm, the Lord God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, while a hidden pair of subjects cowered in the trees. A scared man answers God’s call with the admission of his fear being rooted in his nakedness. And God’s response is a question: “Who told you that you were naked?”
This question has rung in my ears in many different forms. I’ve taken it as God’s wisdom, God’s heartbreak, God’s patient investigation, and I’ve realized I cannot offer a helpful answer for God’s aim or even a specific prevailing character trait that is playing out here. What I can offer is the unbearable feeling that wells up inside of me as those words are spoken. I can completely empathize with the man. To be found by a holy God exposed makes me tremble. The pleas, the paranoia, the excuses, the despair, the thought of being cast out—it feels all too conclusive. This isn’t going to end well for me.
To be naked before someone, in any sense, and then no longer kept or no longer safe is one of the most heartbreaking things we can experience. So, it doesn’t take long for us to collectively connect to what the man is experiencing before God. There was deep vulnerability woven into creation that reveals itself with sinful disobedience.
As an exercise with this Genesis passage, I’ve taken on this question: when I’m found in my tree of disobedience, what is seen? The sin I’ve been scared of lately has been thoughts of superiority that prevail in my life. It is so hard for me to believe that piece of me will to remain anything but untouched, unloved, and isolated. I don’t even feel I have the freedom of liking myself when I consider my sin. My head is hung low as God masterfully unveils his just rulings.
…And then He clothed me. I saw the innocent slain and my shameful nakedness was tended to by the coverings of animal skin. In the same way, the epitome of innocence took on flesh and has now shed it through His death and resurrection for us that we might take it on and climb down from our trees of disobedience. For our treason, God sent His son to die on a tree.
I still offer little aside from connecting to those who feel a similar trembling sentiment: the unbearable reality of having done wrong in the eyes of a holy God and the consequences. I humbly and with great gratitude only additionally lend the loving abundance of the mysterious testimony of God’s grace, and implore us all, through faith in Jesus, to climb down from our trees of disobedience. May divine grace become our common ground and Jesus be our safe adorning.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:54-57)