And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” -Genesis 3:8-10
I grew up playing baseball – mostly “street” baseball, with a bunch of friends. It was one of my passions in life. I remember one day, I think I was around 11 years old, in Korea. My friends and I, as usual, went out to play baseball, right in our apartment complex in Seoul. I was in the batter’s box, ready to hit, and the pitcher threw the ball. I swung and hit the ball pretty well; the ball sailed way above the pitcher's head and headed directly to this big sliding window on the second-floor veranda. The ball hit the sliding window dead center, completely shattering it into thousand pieces. Welp! All of us began running for covers, much like the way cockroaches scatter when you turn on the kitchen light in the middle of the night.
Hiding behind a bush with a few of my friends, I saw this man (ajuhsi) come out on the veranda, incredulous and fuming. He was livid! It looked like smoke was coming out of his nose. "Who the &%#$ did this?" The thunderous voice echoed through the whole place, filling our hearts with terror. I was terribly aware that I've done wrong. But I would dare not come out and confess to my death. I'm just going to wait until this wrathful man goes back in so I can make a run for my house and disappear as fast as I could.
Adam and Eve also realized something was terribly wrong. They knew they sinned against God. They did not trust in the goodness of God, in the trustworthiness of God. They did not want to remain as creatures dependent on the good and loving Creator.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (v. 8)
They hid out of shame, fear, and guilt. They’re caving in on themselves, navel-gazing. They're thinking, "God is angry. He's going to punish us. We gotta get away from Him."
Meanwhile, the Lord God is looking for them – yearning and searching for them with an aching heart. "Adam, Eve, where are you?” (v. 9) And Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (v. 10)
Adam and Eve must have thought to themselves, "He is out to get us. We’re dead.” They’re filled with guilt, fear, and shame.
You and I can resonate with this. No matter how many layers we try to cover up ourselves with, guilt, fear and shame are alive and well. We try to hide behind our masks and pretenses. We pretend like we’re ok on the outside, but there's a lot of mess on the inside.
Why is it so difficult for us to come clean and receive the forgiveness we desperately need? Why do we keep putting up walls, continue to hide behind our masks? The main cause is our false idea of who God is, our wrong understanding of God's character. It's our false narrative that says God is an angry God; He’s holy and just; He loves and forgives, but, he’s generally not pleased with us; He’s withholding this displeasure, taking pity on me.
We live our Christian life with a sense of fear, shame, and guilt. You believe you’re only as good as your last faithfulness, only as good as your last performance. It's only a matter of time before you disappoint him again. So, you’re never truly secure in Him. You’re not truly safe with Him. When you do well, He’s pleased with you; when you don’t do well, He’s displeased with you. It’s always conditional.
The Jewish mob shouted, “Crucify this man! Give us Barabbas instead!” They crucified Christ on the cross. But then He comes back to life! He’s alive! That means, we’re dead! In their mind, God was basically an angry and retributive God who counts our sins and makes sure He exacts punishments accordingly. Judgment triumphed over mercy.
But the apostles preached good news! Jesus came back to life, not to punish us, but to give us life, so we can finally start to live the true life in Him, a life of true freedom, a life where we can live with all the mess, yet knowing that we’re fully known and truly loved by God.
“Adam, where are you?” His heart years for us. That’s why Jesus came to us. To find us, and to embrace us. “I’m here, not to punish you. It’s finished. You’re mine, come to me all of you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus comes to the very bottom, a deep pit we have dug up for ourselves, and meets us there. He identifies with us. He lifts us up. We don’t need to live in fear, shame and guilt. He forgives us. He heals us. He sets us free.
Back to my baseball story. One day we decided to go back to the same spot to play. I mean, what are the chances of something like that happening again? And to be frank, I kinda thought, "Well, if that was ever to happen again, we'll see how he reacts then." This is how an evil mind works!
Well, I was in the batter's box, the pitcher threw a fastball down the middle, I swung pretty good, and the ball jumped off the bat. It was a slow-motion... nooooooo!!! The ball sailed above the pitcher's head, heading straight towards the center of the brand-new glass sliding door (which the man had replaced at a great cost) on the second-floor veranda. The ball hits the glass dead center, completely shattering it into pieces upon impact – in the exact same way!
I. COULD NOT. BELIEVE IT. I was in disbelief. I just stood there, staring into the devastating carnage I’ve caused – again. Everyone has already scattered. Gripped by fear, I became frozen, standing like a statue in the batter’s box. “I’m dead.”
Sure enough, the man came out, looking upset and distraught. He looked down from the second floor, scanning the area. He looked at me, and said, “Where is everybody?”
Still trembling in fear, guilt, and shame, I said, “Everyone left.” Looking up at his face, all I could think was, “I’m dead.” Somehow I found myself coming clean, mainly due to the paralyzing fear; but I’m still dead.
Then, out of nowhere, a smile breaks out on his face.
"Oh no, that evil smile… now I’m REALLY dead!”
And then, still smiling at me, he uttered the words which I'll never forget for the rest of my life.
"It's OK; you're good."
My mind was now totally disoriented, to put it mildly. To this day, it's still hard to believe. Sometimes I think, maybe he was a good-hearted man after all, who took pity on a young boy who has just come clean, scared out of his socks, I don’t know. But still.
One thing I know – the hidden God has met me at the very bottom that day. The shocking grace that I received did something to me. I felt like, well, I died, and then came back to life again.
“Walter, where are you?” I can hear God’s voice say, only to hear Him joyfully answering His own question, “You are IN CHRIST!” “That’s where you are; that’s where you belong. My child, you belong to me – now and forever.”
And this promise of grace is for you too – now and forever.