And They Were Not Ashamed
“I hid myself, because I was naked.”
Adam and Eve have been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been wandering through the garden, imagining. In Moses’ rich allegory, they were created in a state of nakedness but “they were not ashamed.” Nakedness is a lovely symbol, layered and sweet long before it is embarrassing and vulgar. Baby skin, touchable, innocent, free, natural, wholesome, pure, unadulterated: with no perfumes or coverings it is holy in and of itself. There is nothing shaming in that kind of nakedness.
But it is also not fully developed. Knowledge of good and evil was a profoundly worthwhile gift, but with it came the ability to perceive nakedness and imperfection. We dance with shame all throughout our lives as we test this ability to perceive, learning to pare away shame and find imperfection, then work toward perfection. We see, alright, and we want to hide. Every imperfection glares and seems the most crucial detail about us. Every mistake sends us searching for fig leaves.
Today I am fascinated with God’s first gift: coats of skins. He understood that as we partook of this ability to see good and evil, our first awareness would be of our own inadequacy. He knew it would make us want to hide from him and lose the blessing of his fatherly companionship. He knew we would feel intimidated to come into his presence, even after enjoying it so long. He knew this would be the first tendency of mortality – to hide from God.
So he fashioned coats of skins (or as some early writers have translated, garments of light). Of more enduring substance he created something that makes us feel more comfortable in his presence, something that covers our nakedness while we’re figuring out who we are, something that allows us to shift our attention to other opportunities provided by the ability to discern between good and evil. His first gift was to make us comfortable in his presence, to allow us to shift our attention to working and serving each other, to living.
We are told that the covenants we are allowed to make with God are represented by those coats of skins, and I have been thinking today how my covenants make me more comfortable in the presence of God, how they throw a cloak of mercy over my inadequacies, which are many and thorough. I am overwhelmed by the perceptiveness of that gift. Sometimes I cling to my fig leaves and stay in the thicket instead of embracing the opportunity my covenants provide to come out and talk to God.
Today I am not ashamed, thankful for a coat of skins.
Image: detail of the entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.