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Judy Lair is a licensed counselor and owner of Counselorplace Christian Counseling. She is the author of “From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living.” Judy’s personal struggles with fear led her through the valley of hurt and sorrow. She now embraces a joy-filled life grounded in God’s truth and freedom in Christ. Judy uses her professional counseling expertise to tell stories that help people find healing and freedom. Her vulnerable, godly approach helps people find courage to move from Fear to Freedom. For more information or speaking requests, email JudyLair@counselorplace.com or sign up for blog posts at http://judylair.blogspot.com

 “Freedom is attainable. Trust me, I’ve been on the anxiety side, gone through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and now I’m praising God, eating at the banqueting table, and helping others make the same journey. Whether you find yourself stuck in anxiety, disappointment, grief, or confusion, your heart can be set free.” Judy Lair, “From the Other Side of the Couch.”

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Realizing We Are Naked

Relationships on earth began the moment God breathed life into Adam. Dysfunctional relationships began the moment Adam and Eve believed the serpent’s lies about God’s character and intent.

Genesis tells us that in the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve every day. God already knew every detail of his creation, yet chose to experience both Adam and Eve in a personal, intimate way; walking and talking with them, delighting in their enjoyment of all He had created specifically for them. That relational connection allowed them to know and believe in the righteousness of God’s character. Because of that belief, they were able to trust that God’s heart was always loving towards them. Then entered doubt.

Most likely, the serpent had been whispering to Adam and Eve for a long while. Every time they walked past the forbidden tree, the serpent probably whispered doubts about God’s motivation and questioned his trustworthiness.

Did God really want their best? Why did he deny them something that was good to their eyes and not let them make their own choice? What exactly was God’s motive in creating them and giving them such a temptation?

Every human being has these big picture questions, whether whispered deep down or shouted with a fist raised to the sky. Human beings question God’s motives. When circumstances do not line up with what we believe we deserve or what we’ve been taught God should allow, we blame God. Sometimes we tell God he’s unfair. Other times we’re so disappointed, we distance ourselves from him.

The serpent tempted Adam and Eve with the ability to take full control of their own decision-making. Why risk someone else, even God, not having my best interests at heart? I suspect each one of us would have made the same decision to have autonomy and ultimate control over our own life. I know at one time I would have made that decision.

At the moment when Adam and Eve acted upon their conclusion and chose control over relationship, their eyes were opened and the pair realized they were naked. I don’t think this passage was talking about their physical eyes. Instead, this talks about looking at themselves and each other through relational eyes. In that instant, realizing they were cut off from the source of love, all the responsibility for loving well rested solely on each individual. What an unimaginable heavy burden that realization must have been. How, in the name of all that is holy, were they supposed to know themselves, each other, and God so intimately well that they could do relationship perfectly?

I imagine panic set in pretty quickly, especially as they heard God calling for them in the Garden. This was the first relational test on their own and how did they handle it? They hid, lied about it, and then pointed fingers at each other. The ability to be humble, sacrificial, and truthful was decimated when the connection to God was severed. How utterly tragic for them and for all of humankind. The relational consequences experienced by the generations following Adam and Eve’s removal from the garden have been devastating.

Prior to banishment, the relationship between husband, wife, and God was an unending flow of care and love between and among them. Adam and Eve understood who they were and embraced their worth and value from within the relationship with God. Now separated from God, Eve would look for her worth and value from her husband. But Adam’s heart would no longer be turned toward Eve or God as his relational needs could now be met solely by the work of his hands.

Once the connection to God was gone, humankind needed to learn how to love well on our own. Important relational skills needed to be re-learned such as communicating needs, listening to each other without becoming defensive, and moving toward each other when hurt or angry. Without direct access to God’s compassion, empathy, grace, and forgiveness, Adam and Eve must have begun to distance from each other. I can draw this conclusion both from personal and general human experience, but also from looking at the account of Cain and Abel. Children learn from the relational model they see at home. It seems pretty clear that Cain did not know how to communicate and process his hurtful feelings towards his brother and God.

I wish I could have heard what Adam and Eve told their boys about God and their actions in the Garden. Did they take responsibility for their decisions or did they continue to blame each other? What we do know is that each son had a different view of God which showed up in their sacrificial presentation. Abel evidenced his reverent heart attitude by bringing the best sacrifice to God. Cain, however, seemed to be resentful from the beginning. Maybe he was angry at missing out on the positive benefits of living in the Garden. Maybe he thought God judged Adam and Eve too harshly and he was bitter, believing the lies the serpent told about God’s tainted motives.

When Adam and Eve were cut off from all the goodness of God, it negatively affected the physical world and our physical bodies as well. To me, the account of Cain is the first evidence of a person being fundamentally broken. In my definition, broken people have either lost or were born with (and never developed) the capacity to form a relational connection. They do not value the feelings of anyone other than themselves; therefore, they can treat others cruelly without feelings of remorse. Genesis fast forwards in time and shows us what happened when this brokenness spread through the land.

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5 NIV)

In a comparably short amount of time, humankind become so broken that the Lord was grieved and filled with pain that he had even created life (Genesis 6:6). How heartbreaking for God, whose sole purpose in creating us was to teach us to love. God decided to give humankind one more chance to choose a lifestyle of love, and he sent the flood to cleanse the earth of its brokenness.

Once the ark came to rest, God lovingly began protecting humankind from themselves by giving Noah, Moses, and Abraham guidelines and commandments designed to show us our need for God. Kind of a reverse psychology approach. By trying to live up to a set of behavioral standards we could never meet, we would hopefully recognize the futility of figuring it out on our own.

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing.”  Romans 7:18-19 NIV.

We hear Paul’s frustration and confession that in and of himself, he cannot live life well. Such an admission leads him to the truth that Jesus Christ came to free us from striving to follow the law so we can live according to the Relational model. This model is based on continuously communicating with God about our self-protective barriers. It’s humbling and embarrassing when I get those light bulb moments and a blind spot is brought to my attention. My first reaction is to defend and cover up -- exactly what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. But these days I want to receive healing more than I need to hide so I’ve learned how to endure the initial anxiety and welcome the revelation. How about you?

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