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Footsteps in the Garden: Guilt and Grace

By Richard E. Nystrom | Nystrom is a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor, previously serving at churches in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, Florida, West Virginia, and North Carolina, as well as three interims. He is a graduate of Maryville College, Maryville, TN,

Genesis 3:7

"Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked" (Genesis 3:7)

Let us look inside this human experience...this first experience with guilt and shame.

Although Adam was fresh in human experiences, he knew he had never felt like this. While he had no name for it, he knew he didn't like it. His stomach was fluttering, his face felt tight. His cheeks were hot, and throat constricted.

It was difficult to look at Eve. The former feeling of delight was gone. Instead he felt some repulsion, a slight edge of nausea. She looked at him as though she could see through him and  didn't like what she saw.

Their relationship had all seemed so natural and comfortable. Now they couldn’t talk to each other. He had felt free and safe, and now he felt bound and vulnerable, exposed. He felt the need to cover himself, to hide. From what? From whom? So, quietly, without any discussion of what they were doing, he and Eve made a covering for their bodies and hid.

God would be taking His early evening stroll. Adam, who previously delighted in seeing his Creator, now found himself gripped with human feelings he would learn to call fear and guilt. The expected happened. "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden." What a fearful sound that must have been. Quiet steps on soft grass can be as shattering to the guilty as a slight sound to a migraine sufferer. The steps were jarring to those sensitive and wounded spirits. Although it may have been a call of friend to friend, "Where are you?" It must have caused Adam to leap from his hiding place like a startled rabbit.

It the meeting of downcast eye with searching eye Adam was now in the presence of the One he had betrayed. The full intensity of the feeling came. The face tightened even more, feeling as though it would split. The constriction in the throat made speech almost impossible. The words sounded dry and raspy. Adam had an instinctive desire to throw up his hands to ward off a blow he knew he deserved. "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."

"Who told you, you were naked?"

The loss of innocence, when does it come? When do you know you are naked?  I remember as child, if you innocently appeared without your clothes on in the presence of those other than your parents the adults would say, "Shame, shame!" For the first time you knew you were naked. You felt shame for what you were because of others’ discomfort. You were robbed of your innocence by the shame of others. This is not the guilt and shame of which I speak.

“Who told you, you were naked?” The real loss of innocence comes when we are legitimately responsible for circumstances in which we find ourselves and genuinely ashamed of our behavior. It is when the sense of nakedness comes from self-awareness, from within. Our moral weakness has been exposed, our true motivation has been revealed, a character deficiency has been made transparent. Suddenly, we are known for what we are, what we really think, how we really feel.

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