Imagine the scene. Adam and Eve, anxiously anticipating the intense exhilaration of the promised high. Forbidden fruit – promising they’ll go deeper, further, higher than they have in what has become a constricting garden. Perspiring. Hearts racing.
And then the bite. Utter darkness. Emptiness. Convicting truth, marked by a shame that fills their entire body, a physiological phenomenon that feels like a burning from within. Burning heart, face, throat. Shame-intensified Terror.
7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’
Where are you?
What? Doesn’t God mean to say, “Get out here now! What have you done!?” Isn’t this a God like the other gods – angry warriors drooling with the blood of their enemies?
Where are you?
God knew. Of course, God knew where they were. So why the question? Is God playing games with them? Rubbing in the shame? Intensifying the anxiety?
I don’t think so. No, these aren’t words of condescension.
These are words of divine pursuit.
In the cool of the Garden, the bright, warm heat of Presence shows, and speaks, and clothes.
And then the consequences, of course. Exile. There are always consequences. But before the consequences, Grace.
Those three words in Scripture show the compassion, the pursuit, the grace, and perhaps most importantly – the heart-brokenness of a God who longs for Union. In a moment’s notice, union is lost. And God’s heart breaks. Don’t forget, union is all God knows – union and communion, a dance of Father, Son, and Spirit, who in intimate and loving Tri-unity create humanity to enjoy the dance. God now knows that the dance will take much longer to perfect, that the promised marital union will be delayed (Rev. 19). And God’s heart aches.
Now, is this just a strange creation myth? Another puzzling tale told among primeval folk who – let’s face it – exist a bit lower on the evolutionary plane?
In all probability, this was the Story told to an enslaved people called ‘Israel’. This story becomes the primary lesson for a wounded, enslaved, and terrified people surrounded by a host of foreign gods and enslaved by a Terrorist. This is the new Story, one that re-frames their stories. This is the Story to re-story a people who can’t imagine a world governed by such a Generous God. This story explains how they became exiles. But it also begins the healing process. God is Safe. God is pursuing. God wants union.
He’s searching for us. He’s looking for you. It’s not up to you or me to find him. Wounded and ashamed, we can’t imagine anything other than a scolding, or a condemning sermon, or the “Go straight to hell” card – Do not pass go, do not collect $200. No, we are in hell – the hell of our own shame, the terrorizing inner voice which condemns us, the stark realization that we’ve broken union. And yet, with grace, and compassion, and loving pursuit, God comes searching, providing immediate comfort (Gen. 3:21) and the ultimate way out of their bind (Gen. 3:15).
Some of you reading need to hear this, right now. Some of you reading feel so utterly beyond loving, or being known, or being pursued, that you cannot hear God say, “Where are you?” Some of you have been so wounded by angry preachers or distant fathers or misguided counselors that you cannot fathom that God might be heart-broken for you.
But maybe you’ll hear a whisper of grace in these words – Where are you? I pray you’ll see the Smile of the One who we long for in Advent, coming near, showing up, dwelling among us, and once and for all dealing with that ancient Serpent, whose voice still rings in our ears with lies that deceive.