by: Staci Stallings
So we know that shame and fear entered the world when Adam and Eve chose themselves over God. We know that God kicked them out of the Garden, that their relationship with God was broken, but that was THEN, right?
I mean, surely, after seeing what happened to our parents, we would have gotten smarter.
Yeah. Hold onto your deck chairs, this is not going to be pretty.
Not long ago I found out something very interesting. It’s amazing to me how I’ve heard something many multiples of times but because of a slight glitch in how it’s communicated, I’ve gotten it totally and completely wrong.
Let’s see how you do on this little, one question pop quiz.
Who was older – Cain or Abel?
Cain and Abel.
Cain, right? He’s listed first, so he’s the oldest, right?
Cain was the YOUNGER brother!
Okay. What possible difference does that make?
Well, let’s look at the story that follows the story of Adam and Eve being thrown from the Garden. It is the story of their children and their children’s relationship with God.
Abel, the older brother, brought a sacrifice to God. This sacrifice was accepted by God.
Then Cain brought his sacrifice, and God did not accept it.
Now remember, Cain was operating with the viruses of shame and fear in his God operating system. So what did he do?
He turned and he KILLED his brother!
His solution to the shame and fear problem was to kill the one he blamed for making him feel that way. Ah… but there is a lesson for us here if we stop long enough to contemplate it.
The first son, the one who gave a perfect, pleasing sacrifice to God was killed out of jealousy and contempt by the younger brother whose sacrifice (effort, good behavior) was not accepted.
Who does THAT remind you of?
Let’s flash forward in the story something like 6,000 years to another set of petulant, jealous, angry children who were offering God sacrifices that were far less than perfect. These wicked children valued the law above each other. They kept people away from God, looked down on others, exulted in themselves and their own offerings, and they just knew their sacrifice should earn them a spot in God’s Kingdom.
And then the First Son appeared.
And what did they do?
They killed Him!
In fact, Jesus foretells the story of His own death in the parable of the vineyard owner’s son. When the owner sends his son to speak with the tenants, the tenants choose to kill the owner’s son. How could Jesus possibly know that was going to happen? Because it already HAD!
Our shame and our fear tell us that we must get rid of any sign that our effort, behavior, “sacrifice” is less-than someone else’s. If someone else shows up who we perceive as being better than us, what do we do? We tear them down! Rip them to shreds! With our words, with our deeds, with our actions toward them!
This reaction was nothing new. It was the exact same way God’s children had been acting since the first children right out of the fall!
However, it was God and Jesus, knowing our sinful, fallen nature Who came and loved us right where we were at–in the midst of our shame, fear, anger, wrath.
I have always thought (because I’ve always been told?) that God poured out His righteous wrath on Jesus on the cross, and although I didn’t think that was completely fair, it allowed me to be absolved of the real truth.
Yes, I knew we killed Jesus. Yes, I have pounded nails into a cross to represent what we did to Him on that cross. Yes, I get that Jesus took on our sin, became our sin–the sins I have committed, and He took the punishment for those sins.
What I did not get until recently was that it was our wrath Jesus endured.
In our shame and our fear, in our desperate attempt to blame someone else (sound a little like Adam & Eve in the Garden?), we killed the First Born Who brought the perfect sacrifice. We killed the Owner’s Son!
It was OUR wrath, our insanity, our basest selves that Jesus met on that cross.
We were the ones who mocked Him, shunned Him, abandoned Him, betrayed Him, denied Him…
He met us at our absolute worst…
And He loved us anyway!
I have spoken about this kind of thing before… how sometimes when you are working with someone who is really struggling, that they will consciously or unconsciously TRY to get you to give up on them. You think they are finally learning and then WHAM, they go completely off the deep-end again, and you feel like you are back at square one. And they just KNOW that this time, you’re going to give up and walk away.
I believe it’s this same mentality that Jesus met head-on at that cross. ”Yes, she says she believes in me now, but when I stop being little Miss Mary Sunshine, when she sees that I haven’t really changed, she will give up too–just like everyone else has.” ”If He sees me at my very worst, God is going to stop loving me.”
It is believing in conditional love, knowing the other person cannot or will not love you through what you did (and do) on Good Friday.
Kids test this all the time. They come home late, they wig out on their brothers and sisters, they test and try your PATIENCE over and over again. But what they are really testing and trying is our LOVE. Can we, will we, love them despite their imperfections, flaws, and sins?
And we do this with God. Often and repeatedly.
When Shame and Fear are running on our operating system, we really have no choice because these two spiritual viruses tell us at a core level that God’s love is conditional. We just have to find the point at which it breaks — so HE walks out on us just like we chose ourselves above Him.
For one moment, let’s backtrack just a bit here and remember some ground we have already covered.
God IS love.
It doesn’t say, “God loves…”
It says GOD IS LOVE. Not sometimes. Not when we’re good. Not when we get it right. Not when we sell enough or get that promotion or move to that new house or lose the weight or make enough money.
In fact, nothing that we can ever do, good or bad, can change the fundamental nature of God.
God’s fundamental nature is not conditioned upon us or upon our behavior.
It’s WHO HE IS. In the past. In the present. In the future. In the beginning, now and always!
And He literally loved us at our very worst. In fact, Easter Sunday says He loved us PAST our worst moment.
We KILLED Him, and He loved us ANYWAY!
I well remember one night with a dear friend of mine. She had a “past,” and it wasn’t pretty. Shame was the start and it devolved all the way down to complete and utter humiliation. At the time we had been friends for quite awhile, but she just “knew” if and when I knew “it all,” the friendship would be over.
I remember her that night, the tears, the choking words, the abject fear that I was going to toss her down a well and walk off.
It is the same fear I have felt when going to God about my past. I know I messed up. I know how incredibly wrong I’ve gotten things. I know how many people I have hurt. And oh, it’s hard to go to God with those things because how can He ever love me if He knows it all?!
But what’s even harder… is accepting that He can still love me on the other side of me being totally and completely honest about how far I’ve fallen short of the mark, and how often that has happened and continues to happen.
My friend will still tell you that she was in shock when our friendship didn’t end that night. She “couldn’t believe it.” How could I know and love her anyway?
Because I know what God knows about her… those choices were not her, they were her shame and fear talking, and they led her down some very destructive paths. But she is a beautiful, wonderful, forgiven Child of the King. She experienced Good Friday, no question. But God does not EVER require us to stay at Good Friday, beating ourselves up over what we did. He wants with all His Jesus heart for us to step past what we did on Good Friday and to make it with Him to Easter Sunday where He loves us anyway!
I am here to tell you that that is the kind of love God wants to give you, that He is literally holding that kind of love out to you RIGHT NOW!
It is called being “renewed,” and we all need it and we all crave it more than maybe we even know.
Yes, He knows you’ve gotten it wrong, even really REALLY wrong. He knows all about what you did, what you’ve done, how you weren’t perfect or even close, the things you chose over Him, and He wants to love you anyway!
That’s why I really do wonder how the story would have been different if Adam and Eve had believed more in God and His love than in their shame and fear. If they had taken a breath and had the courage to be honest about what they had done.
Would God have somehow “renewed” them right then and there?
I wonder that because that’s what He did with me… when I finally stopped trying to fix that corrupted operating system on my own!