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Fig Leaves

My heart has wandered off from the Gospel, subtly and surely, over the past months. How do I know? For one, I see my sin a great deal less while the sins of others are occupying my vision with increased clarity. My authority has become something more precious to guard than to surrender. My patience with my children is sought in new structures rather than the fruit of the Spirit, even while anger overtakes my interactions with them. His mercy is not as precious to me because I am not feeling my intense need for it and the extravagance of His grace given to me is practically lost on my consciousness.

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. Gen. 3:7

This first response of my ancestors is my first response as well. But it tends to come after our other shared responses:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Gen. 3:8-13

If I faintly recognize my error (which I don’t always), or if someone else calls out my error (which only my most trustworthy friends have loved me enough to do), I want to run and jump in a cave and hide. I just want to remove myself from any further opportunity to embarrass myself or do the wrong thing or be seen as one who…(fill in the blank: ex: talks too much, acts boldly foolish, is ignorant, needs the approval of others, judges others and makes them feel inferior, is proud, is harsh, etc.) I so don’t want to be seen as imperfect that I’d rather not be seen at all than have that reality confirmed.

Then, what I do most commonly, is shift the blame from my heart’s response to being the fault of someone or something outside of myself. “The woman you put here” or “the serpent deceived me” was used to answer “what is this YOU have done?” For me, what I have done is explained away by fatigue, by the chaos of current circumstances, by the equal imperfection of the “other person”, by the common nature of whatever I did, and so on.

And then, at some point, I determine to cover my own shame or imperfection with my own form of fig leaves. I address the person or people involved with a summation of my error placed tidily in the past tense. If I can wrap it all up, package it in a marketable context, phrase it all winningly (even with a touch of genuine humility), like a dog kicking dirt over his “business”, I can feel satisfied the moment is in the past and covered. Yet, to keep that illustration going, the business is still sitting in the common area and can be stepped in by unsuspecting friends and family. It is not actually gone.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:21-22

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:3

I can continue to be my own God, trying to bring order around me through my own resources (schedules, rewards charts, endless cleaning, organizing), all the while treating those who violate my demands for order with contempt. Yet when my self-righteousness sends me blame-shifting, hiding and covering myself in fig leaves, dirt or other ill-fitting forms of covering, His mercy pursues me even so. He has promised to complete the good work that He began in me. He is faithful, and He will do it.

He invites me to stop denying, hiding, blaming and self-covering and instead to be covered fully, effectively and radiantly in Him. Because His identity replaces mine, I can willingly and unashamedly acknowledge how flawed my own identity is and why I need His instead! Of course I am weak, self-serving, impatient, irritable, proud and ignorant…because the only perfect One is God who made Himself man. I am not God which is why I need Him!

As the new calendar year approaches and we have this wonderful (even if arbitrary) sense of a fresh start, I pray to be quicker to see my need for His mercy and His righteousness even as I more readily see my own lack of perfection and righteousness apart from His identity covering me.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matt. 23:27-28

What good news worth celebrating that He takes my Pharisee’s heart, so determined to look beautiful on the outside while absolutely riddled with sin internally, and cleans it fully from the inside out. As Scotty Smith said earlier this week: Glorious paradox – The Gospel will delight you to the degree it disrupts you.

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