Based on Genesis 3:1-7 and Romans 5:12-19
I wonder when the seeds of shame were planted in Eve’s heart.
There’s much in her early story that would leave the best of us feeling flawed:
that lingering feeling of always being second; unemployment; knowing Adam was given all the animals of the world but you, given nothing, are yourself a gift; your knowledge of the rules was second hand; while God explicitly breathed his breath into Adam you’re left to wonder; your marriage was arranged not chosen; you’re put in an imbalanced position of needing to deeply trust another.
Nothing unique about this story, even today, in a world where women are second place in the workforce, often paid less, unwelcome at the Rules-Making table, objectified and forced into unrealistic standards of beauty, and questions remain (often times most vociferously by the church!) regarding women’s equality.
No I don’t know when the seeds of her shame were planted. But it’s clear when it began to flourish.
Needing only a tiny hint, a whispered suggestion like the passing face of youthful beauty on a billboard, Eve’s shame erupts with the onset of desire.
Eve, you’re not good enough. You need something, just a little something more. THEN you’ll be complete! Then you’ll finally meet expectations and feel fulfilled. Without this you’re nothing. But with it? With it you’ll become like God!
Her shame flourished the moment the desire for more entered into her thoughts: cover up, salve your wounds, defend your wounded psyche, prove you’re not flawed.
Her desire for more proves contagious, spilling over into Adam. Blinded by a lifetime of privilege and entitlement that set him apart with power over, his own shame was hidden until he began to want for himself the object of Eve’s own desire.
Refusing to be outdone, Adam not only covers his shame by desiring something more, he hides that desire, degrading Eve with blame. This defense – the need to scapegoat his spouse – seems the far worse sin when compared with Eve’s willingness to share with Adam that which “delighted” her.
And by the time we get only one generation further, to Cain and Abel, humanity can only find self-worth in relation to another.
I am good, I am worthy, based not on my own created goodness but because I am better than you or you are worth less than me.
The great 20th Century Philosopher Ozzie Osborne captured this cycle of shame well when singing in 1980 about his “mental wounds not healing, I’m falling off the rails of crazy train.” This family has gone downhill fast!
The ancients, seeing in themselves Eve’s temptation to cover up shame with desire, guarded against crazy train by prohibiting desire in the 10 Rules, not in its most base expression of “coveting” but in the everyday, normative sense of the word. “Do not desire your neighbors’ house, wife, or stuff (Exodus 20:17).” The early Christian theologian Paul of Tarsus called this cycle “living under the rule of death (Romans 5:17).”
We are, according to Paul, the walking dead enslaved in our own desire and sin, recklessly seeking to justify ourselves in any way we can: wealth, good works, religiosity, wisdom. And if I can’t become better than you, I’ll resort to making you look worse than me.
You’re not good enough. You need something, just a little something more. THEN you’ll be complete! Then you’ll finally meet expectations and feel fulfilled. Without this you’re nothing. But with it? With it you’ll become like God!
Forget arguments about the factual historicity of Eve and Adam. What about the Truth that I’m just a modern day Eve? We’re each, to a T, chips off our mothers block.
Years after Eve’s story was told for the first time, a Palestinian Jew addressed the shame that so easily entangles us in a revolutionary new way:
Salvation through grace, not improved self-image, increased religiosity, more and more acts of goodness.
The free gift of grace redefines us, allowing our identity to come from God. God, who accepts and refuses to condemn us, is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love has called you a child of God.
You are enough!
The stench of shame and its desire need not rule us like an unconscious wizard hidden behind the curtain of our ego, we need only to “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” and we can rule our own lives “through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).”
You and I, living under the reign and rule of shame and its twisted desire, cannot live the fully human fully alive life of Christ we were created for. The giving and loving, breaking and pouring life of Christ can only become our way of life when we find our truest identity in God.
Without a God-formed identity “when people revile you and persecute you (Matt 5:11)” we’ll be ruled by our addictions to approval and be stuck in a pattern of capitulation and privatized religion incapable of being God’s partners in shalom-making. When confronted with injustice, we’ll sympathize with status quo knowing our own hidden desire to be seen as better than someone.
My friends, Eve, Adam, Abel and Cain, I see your shame.
But Christ has come to set us free.
And you, in all your glory, are good enough.