When Sex Left the Garden

I have struggled and continue to struggle deeply with habitual sexual sin.  I can say that now, but I wasn’t always able to admit it to myself, to others, or to God for a long, long time.  It is a difficult thing to own your brokenness.  To name and hold up to the light the parts of ourselves that we conceal: the habits that still own us, the pasts that still lay us low, or the doubts that just won’t give.  Concealment is an easier solution than repentance and, with sexual sins especially, there are added layers of taboo in the church, which make it easier for us to live in denial.

We come by the strategy honestly though.  Humanity has been denying and concealing from the start.  Once, we were in the Garden living within God’s perfect design.  Adam and Eve were “both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).  Before Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they never felt guilt; we never experienced embarrassment in nudity or in the perfect vulnerability of the Garden.  From the first sin though, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7).  In what I imagine was a mad and pitiful scramble, “they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7).  When God walked to meet them in the cool of the day, their new understanding led them immediately to hide.

Being honest is incredibly tough.  When we feel a tug of the Spirit to confess our secrets, or when we have a chance to come clean with those who have become the collateral damage of Eden in our own context, stepping out from hiding is hard.  It’s safe hiding in the trees when a holy God calls out to you. Speaking to one another in vague language that conceals our real struggles and our damaged hearts is easy.  Even after counseling and lots of practice in humility, I still find myself sugar-coating the reality of my struggles to accountability partners or pretending God doesn’t see.  And yet even in our hiding, God still initiates reconciliation and relationship.  “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9).

Next, Adam did this very difficult thing: “he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).  Adam stepped out of concealment and confessed to God; he was naked and ashamed.  Oh, but the next thing he does is all too familiar.  “The woman, you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12).  There’s almost an accusation of God as well as of Eve in Adam’s response.  And what does Eve say for herself?  “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 2:13).  It’s the first recorded instance of “the devil made me do it.”

As many times as we might have heard this story, how many times do we repeat the same routine?  When faced with the conviction and consequential pain that comes from leaving concealment, we jump right into blame.  My own blame patterns were challenged by a friend’s story.  As a child he was sexually abused by a daycare worker.  If anyone can claim a right to accuse God or to blame circumstances, it’s him.  Still he chooses not to say, “It’s Eve’s fault” or “It was the serpent.”  If he can fight on despite his wiring and move forward into healing, then surely any of us can.

Jay has suggested that there’s more to God’s question: “Where are you?” than needing help finding Adam and Eve.  When God asks, “Where are you?” he is asking about where their whole identity has gone.  God’s also asking, “Where are my Eikons?  What’s happened to my image-bearers?”  Their physical bodies where hidden behind the trees of the Garden but their spiritual selves were also in hiding—behind the distortion and shame of sin.  Part of moving Adam and Eve to reconciliation was untangling concealment, blame, and shame in the mess of their brokenness.  There are consequences.  God casts them from the Garden, but he also initiates new chapters in His story of love.

What happens next? “And The Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  There is hope.  Many see this passage as an early “type” of Christ.  God gives them animal skins as clothing so they can still approach Him.  Beautifully, God provides a way for us to come before him again—just as Christ our High Priest is the intermediary on our behalf.  And Christ’s sacrifice is freely available to all.  There are consequences for the sins we don’t want to talk about in the Church.  We now live in that land East of Eden.  Yet from the start God has been moving toward us in our brokenness and now Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us if we believe and follow Him.

We need to use wisdom in how we confess our sins one to another.  Don’t put things out there to people who haven’t earned your trust.  However, there are those in our community who you may need to talk to.  There’s no point in continuing to make grass skirts of fig leaves to ease the pain or to hide your brokenness.  We all walk around in the grace of God’s animal skins to approach Him.  We all have thorns in our sides.  If we want to move toward that place of freedom and nakedness before God, we have to move from concealment to honesty and from blame to truth.

sex left garden

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