The Fall and The Introduction of Body Shame
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."
- Genesis 3:7, NIV
Reading: Genesis 2:1 - 3:24
What does this story mean?
I want you to envision Adam and Eve, our ancient ancestors, living in a perfect paradise. They walked among flowing streams that watered the garden and gave life to all in the garden. They had an intimate relationship with God and with each other. They had love, joy, peace, and innocence for they "were both naked, and they felt no shame."
God, out of love, gave them one rule for paradise living. "You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden" (Genesis 3:3). They are given one rule in a perfect paradise and they couldn't follow it? WHAT?
When viewing the start of this story it's easy to be critical of Adam and Eve. Yet, how often do I want the thing that I cannot have? How often am I discontented by what I don't have that I forget all that I do have? How does that sow a seed of doubting God's goodness and love for me in my heart? Unfortunately, I do this in my life even now.
So if you haven't heard the story... spoiler alert. Eve is tempted by the serpent who tells her that she will "be like God" if she eat fruit from the tree. She eats the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden and gives some to Adam. When they do this, their eyes are "opened and they realized they were naked." Their immediate response to learning they were naked... covering up and hide from God. And if I'm really honest... isn't that my first inclination - to cover up my mistake instead of confessing it?
God then comes into the garden and looks for Adam and Eve who are not to be found. The LORD asks them a question: "where are you?" If we do a quick skim of this we might think that God is playing hide and seek with Adam and Eve. This is likely not the case - let's remind ourselves that God is all-knowing and I'm sure he knew where they physically were. This is a spiritual question - where are you? Are you abiding with me?
Adam answers that he and Eve hid because God was in the garden and they were naked. Shame has now entered the world as sin has entered the world. God's response is to curse the serpent who deceived. However, his response to Adam and Eve is not a curse, it's an opportunity to remedy the relationship - they are painful consequences: painful labor to give birth to children and being cast out of Eden, but Adam and Eve are not cursed by God.
What does this story mean to me?
Shame entered into the world as sin did. Adam and Eve sinned against God and breaking the rules that God set out of love resulted in guilt. Their body shame came from fear of judgment from someone else who acted out of a sinful nature as well as knowing they themselves are sinful, which led to feelings of unworthiness.
Our body shame is not so different in our current time. We still live in that same fallen world and that fallen world sells the message that certain body types are more righteous than others. We have lost the message that God has created us in His image. We hide our bodies today for the same reasons that they hid their body in the ancient world: fear of judgment and rejection and feelings of unworthiness.
AND... just as God gave Adam and Eve a plan for restoration, He has a plan to restore you as well. This story tells us two things about restoration.
God called to Adam and Eve in the garden. He wants to be invited in to your dark places where you feel that you have messed up. He wants to give you a plan for restoration - HE LOVES YOU!
God gave Adam and Eve clothing made from animal skins to replace their fig leaves. This forever connects a blood sacrifice with healing sin. This was completed in Jesus on the cross.
Lord, be near to those who are in a place of body shame. Help us come openly to you, O Father. Help us to invite you into our dark places so that you can heal us. Let me trust you to not reject me but to love and restore me to You. Help me embrace my true identity - a beloved Child of God who is beautiful in your sight and created in your image. Amen.