I tell my son, Christian, many things; but one of the most important things I tell him, I repeat over and over: “The bigger the mess, the faster you run to us.” Tragically, the trust broken in Eden makes it so hard for us to do that.
Think about it. When you feel you’ve made a mess of things, that you’ve fallen and failed God in some way, how do you normally respond? Most of us want to hide. We want to run away and try to get our act together or fix ourselves up a bit. Then, we tell ourselves, we’ll go to God and explain everything.
It didn’t work in the garden and it works no better now. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness by making clothing out of fig leaves, the largest covering they could find. They may have covered their nakedness from each other, but they couldn’t cover their sin and shame. They couldn’t hide their broken condition from God. They had taken part in a diabolical exchange that turned beauty into ashes. Although God had made trees to delight their eyes and excite their palate (see Genesis 2:9), now those very trees became their cellar… their dark place to hide.
What about you? We all have favorite places to hide.
Some hide in food. Have you ever done this? Perhaps you’ve built a wall of flesh around your broken heart to keep people at a distance. When you looked a certain way, you may believe that you were used or abused because of your appearance, and since then you have done everything in your power to hide yourself somewhere, tucked deep inside. Food may be the only thing over which you feel you have some control. It has become your secret weapon — so you choose to use it, disappearing a little more every day.
Some hide in “stuff.” Ever tried that? You think, Just one more pair of shoes, one more handbag, one more dress, and I’ll feel better. It can be makeup, a new dress, or an elegant necklace — we never feel satisfied; we just need to try “one more thing.” But “things” will never make us happy, no matter how good the ad campaign.
One of my dearest friends is Dr. Henry Cloud. He is a clinical psychologist and a passionate student of the Word of God. He told me recently of a study that the head of the American Psychiatric Association commissioned several years ago to investigate what makes people happy. The final results seem shocking… unless you study the Word of God. It became crystal clear that only 10 percent of things that make people genuinely happy come from the outside. Even then, those things give only a temporary bump, and then people return to their set point. So the new car, the house, the dress, or the ring — whatever it might be that we think, If I just had that, I would be so much happier — can’t do what we hoped it would do.
Some hide in relationships. Are you there now? Maybe you go through relationships quickly, finding fault with the other person, sure that whatever “issue” arises, it must be him. He just doesn’t make you feel the way you want to feel, so you move on. But the trouble is, you take you wherever you go.
Some hide in religion. This one looks good… from the outside. It’s all about appearance, all about being in the right place at the right time, all about the approval of others. It’s all about being seen as good, but knowing absolutely nothing of the freedom or joy that an actual and vital relationship with Christ can bring.
Some hide in ministry. This was my hiding place of choice. I seemed to “be there” for everyone else, but no one got to see the real me. I felt that if I helped you, prayed with you, shared God’s love with you, I had to be okay. I just never let you take a close look at me, in case you might see that, in fact, I was far from okay.
We hide, of course, in a wild variety of ways. I’ve listed only a few. You may have chosen a different place, a different method, a different cellar to climb into. Perhaps your hiding places seem so murky and dark you can’t even identify them. Even so, God asks each of us who is hiding the very same question He asked Adam and Eve.
Shortly after Adam sinned, God called out to him and asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The Bible doesn’t give us the Lord’s inflection when He called to Adam. But I don’t think it sounded accusatory, like, “Where are you, anyway?”
I think the voice sounded sad.
I also think the question was full of grace. The Lord didn’t ask, “Why are you hiding?” He asked instead, “Where are you?”
Can you hear the difference? If God had asked why? it would have pushed Adam and Eve deeper into the forest and further into their shame. So He asked where? Such a question tends to call us out of hiding. That was the heart of God to Adam and Eve, and it is His heart to each of us today.
I find it very telling that Adam responded to the question God did not ask. He replied as though God had asked him why he hid: “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
I know this is true in my own life. So often God asks me where? and I answer why? So don’t feel surprised that you beat yourself up when you know you have fallen short of what God wants from you and for your life!
That’s exactly what happened to the only two human beings (other than Christ) who have ever walked in perfect relationship with our Father.
Part of the challenge of our brokenness is to train our hearts to hear God’s love above the din of our shame.
Adam and Eve could not disguise their futile attempt at hiding; their brokenness was written all over them. (Who were these people — crouching in the bushes, hearts pounding, faces twisted with fear?) Yet brokenness has many disguises, and over the years we have become quite adept at trying to make it appear like something else.
The Urge to Pretend
A friend asked me to fill in at the last moment as a speaker for a very fancy luncheon in Palm Springs, California. As far as I was concerned, I had neither the desire nor the ability to do it; at that point I had never spoken in public, despite my background in television and music.
But then she said, “Oh, Sheila, I’m really stuck.”
“Marlene,” I countered, “you personally know half the female speakers in America. Ask one of them.”
To which she replied — and I quote word for word — “I’ve asked everyone else. You’re the bottom of the barrel.”
Wow. Isn’t that a confidence builder?
As I drove to the event, I had quite a heart-to-heart with the Lord.
“I would just like to apologize up front, Lord. You are not going to look good today!”
So I showed up. The experience overwhelmed me more than I ever imagined it would. I sat at the head table and surveyed the surreal scene around me. About a thousand women had come, all of them immaculately dressed… interestingly enough, with faces that didn’t move (plastic surgery humor). I couldn’t help staring at the woman to my left — tall, slender, blonde, and just stunning. The kind of woman who makes you say, “Really, Lord? Share the love a little!”
So I spoke. I didn’t quite know what to talk about, so I decided to put them all off their dessert and talk about what happened when my tidy little world collapsed and I ended up in a psych ward. The room became very still. I had no idea what they were thinking or feeling, but when I finished speaking, the first woman to approach me was the beautiful blonde sitting next to me. She took off the two diamond-encrusted gold cuffs she wore and showed me where she had slit her wrists in a botched suicide attempt.
I had no idea that one could package pain so beautifully. But as tears flowed down her cheeks, I realized that you can’t Botox pain. You can’t Botox brokenness.
That day opened my eyes like never before. I had no idea. On the surface, this woman’s life looked perfect. I’m sure that many in the room envied her — but the pain inside so overwhelmed her that she tried ending her life to stop the charade. I imagine that her wealth made it possible to chase so many of the dreams that we are told will make us happy. How disillusioning to find every one of them fatally flawed! I saw her suicide attempt as a way of screaming out, “This is all a lie!”
Pretending that something works doesn’t make it work. In fact, it can drive you crazy. And it can make denial the only place left to live.
A Perfect Fit
The truth is that we all are broken at some level. Some of us know it and have no idea what to do about it, while some are deeply unaware, although at times we feel a distant rumble in our souls. To each one of us, God’s answer is Christ.
When our loving Father saw the pathetic attempt Adam and Eve made to cover themselves, He said, “That will never do.” Scripture says, “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife” (Genesis 3:21). They would indeed be covered, but something had to die to accomplish that. Such a beautiful foreshadowing of Christ, who would shed His blood to cover us all!
You don’t have to hide anymore. You are loved as you are. You needn’t wear a mask; God sees you as you are. You don’t have to pretend to be okay; Christ is our righteousness, and we get to be human after all, to be real, to be loved, to be free. You don’t have to deny the truth; the Lord knows it all and offers you Christ.
If you will dare to try on this outfit that God has made for you, in no time at all you will begin to see the truth: it’s a perfect fit.
Excerpted with permission from God Loves Broken People by Sheila Walsh, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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You can’t Botox your brokenness. There’s no covering up in front of Omniscient God. Although coming out of hiding can be terrifying and oh so humbling, it’s where freedom and healing are found! Are you still pretending that your mess can stay a secret forever and you’ll be fine maintaining your cover story? Or have you run to God with the whole truth and let Him turn brokenness into a witness for His glory? He can do that through you! Come share your story with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Faith.Full