I spend significant portions of my day pointing out the obvious:
If you want your nose to stop bleeding, you have to stop poking your fingers up in there.
Yesterday you screamed and broke all your crayons. That’s why all your crayons are so short today and nobody will share with you.
When you hit people, they don’t want to play with you.
I spell out this relationship between actions and consequences to my students all day long. They bumble about their days not intending to break things and hurt people, but it happens. Anger springs up, distractions catch their eyes, and their little noses can be just so darn itchy.
If you break all the crayons, I do not buy you new crayons. You color with stubs. If you hit people, you are going to have to get used to playing alone for a little while until people learn to trust you again. That’s just the way it works.
Which is why part of Genesis 3 grabbed my attention during a recent quiet time. Adam and Eve is a story unfamiliar to few, at least in general terms. God creates the first pair of humans who live in perfect harmony with Him in the paradise He built until they break the one and only rule He gave them. They realize their nakedness and He evicts them eternally from their garden home – children to be born in anguish, nourishment to be brought forth in toil, and forever the enemies of the serpent who deceived them.
Though heartbreaking, the consequences seem a natural response to their actions. The terms had been laid out up front. He had made them to enjoy their Lord and His creation, in blameless perfection, experiencing a full and open relationship, literally naked, vulnerable but completely safe, as long as that one tree was left untouched. No more access to a garden full of everything that sustains you means providing food for yourself suddenly becomes a significant undertaking. When your Father created you, it was painless. But now, on your own, what God had done in the blink of eye, you will struggle with for nine months and the final hours will be agony. You were walking naked, but safe and unashamed. Suddenly you have become aware of your nakedness and are now sent out, filled with shame, covered in the scratchy leaves you found for yourselves. Sucks to be you. Next time follow the rules.
Except it didn’t end like that. He didn’t let them leave naked.
Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.”
It makes sense to me that He would say, “Enjoy making new leaf pants every day. Those things are going to dry out, get all curly and crunchy and stuck to your underbits. But, hey, I had made a way for you to be happy and comfy in the buff and you rejected it, so now its prickly pants for you.”
But He clothed them. He did not send them from the garden covered in leaves, He sent them covered in skins. Did He sacrifice an animal and use its skin or did He just snap some clothes into existence for them? I don’t know, really. I like to think He crafted them especially for the pair. But the bottom line is, He did not send them out into the elements, beyond the protective walls of the only home they had known, to work out this sudden exposure problem all on their own.
On my first read, my teacher brain thought, “So now you know you’re naked. What are you going to do to fix it?” Just like I might say, “Yep, your pencil is broken. What are you going to do to solve that problem?”
Except with the broken pencil, the problem is the broken pencil. With the nakedness, the problem isn’t the nakedness. They’d been naked the whole time. The problem is the shame. And although their shame resulted from their choices, it is not a problem that is up to them to fix. Leaves were the best solution they could come up with and they still ended up retreating into the trees to hide themselves even further. The only solution was to accept the free gift of a covering from their Father.
Did the other consequences still stand? Yep. They had to leave. They had to farm and toil. Sickness and sin and death had entered the world. But they left in a covering designed by God’s mercy and not their own insufficient efforts, a covering that meant they could come out from the bushes and converse with their Father who loved them.
Accepting the consequences that are a natural result of your actions is part of being a responsible human being, but I find myself often attempting my own fig leaf outfits to cover my shame. That might be humor, talents, a busy schedule, cute clothes, witty social media posts, excellence in my job, white lies, numbing activities like Netflix binges, or whatever translates into me saying with my actions, “Nothing to see here, folks! Nothing to see! Move right along!”
Just like with an outfit made completely of fig leaves, nothing really does the trick. Nothing brings me back into communion with my Father like accepting from Him the free gift of His Son to cover my shame and my mistakes.
I am so, so grateful for our God who did not intend for us to exist in the obvious consequence of our actions: separation from Himself. His unnatural response to our failings has made a way for us to stand before Him, vulnerable and perfectly loved, covered by His mercy and grace.