The story of the Garden of Eden holds profound significance. It recounts the origin of human beings, their harmonious relationship with their Creator, and the fateful choice that forever changed the course of humanity. Among the numerous consequences of the first sin, one significant effect was the rupture of intimacy between man and woman, a husband and wife.
I would pray for your patience here as I attempt to put my thoughts down and explore how self-evaluation, shame, and insecurity led to the breakdown of authenticity and the emergence of privacy, as exemplified through the act of covering their sexual organs, represented by sexual deprevation between a husband and a wife.
The Fear of Being Known
Isn’t it interesting that the Bible draws so much attention to the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Isn’t it interesting that when the Bible talks about the act of sex, it uses the phrase “to know.” “Adam knew his wife and they had a son.” Sex is the ultimate act of knowing another person.
The story of creation ends with the crescendo of unabashed sexuality between husband and wife.
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
Then the initial brokenness of humanity is represented by a relational breach in this intimacy, implying a sexual deprevation from husband and wife first and, ultimately, a wholesale distancing from God. Listen to this:
“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.”
In the big picture, this initial consequence of the fall highlights the struggle for truthful intimacy. People are scared of being known. It is now in our marred DNA.
The Fall and Its Immediate Consequences
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in a state of perfect harmony and intimacy with one another and with God. Now, I don’t know how long this lasted (I assume it wasn’t long at all), but there is incredible significance that the end of the creation story points our eyes directly to the nudity and vulnerability of Adam and Eve, right after the first marriage.
However, the serpent’s temptation led them to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, and their eyes were opened to their own vulnerability, fearing to reveal themselves to each other. This newfound awareness initiated a chain reaction of self-evaluation, shame, and insecurity that disrupted their intimate connection.Again, the fear of being known.
Shame and Insecurity
As Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness, shame enveloped them. Their intimate connection, previously free from judgment or self-doubt, was now tainted by a sense of unworthiness, inadequacy, and selfishness. They began to evaluate themselves through the lens of imperfection, leading to feelings of insecurity and fear of revealing their true selves. Again, the loss of sexual intimacy seems to be euphemized by their initial determination to cover their sexual organs from each other first, then to God. It is the first thing they did after the Fall.
The Act of Covering
They became fearful of being fully known, preferring to present a facade rather than reveal their true selves. While the covering does represent their fear of sexual intimacy, it represents so much more. It is the fear of being known in general. As many of us know, sex is the ultimate representation of connection. We let our guard down, divest ourselves of self-consciousness, and connect at the deepest level. You may find it humorous for me to say this (and maybe this is an understatement), but there is nothing else like it! There is no way to give yourself to another person more deeply than this act. While this act is limited to a husband and wife, again, it illustrates the first-fruits (pardon the pun) that the fall had on human connection in general. The first sin made us afraid of being known and, therefore, self-centered.
Separation from God
Furthermore, the covering of their sexual organs also represented the first act of separation from God. Adam and Eve, aware of their transgression, felt unworthy to stand before their Creator in their vulnerable state. They attempted to shield themselves from God’s gaze, seeking refuge in the shadows of privacy. This act of hiding symbolized their severed connection with the divine, reinforcing the brokenness of their intimate relationship.
The Wider Significance
While the consequences of the first sin extend beyond issues of sexuality, it is through sexual deprivation that the loss of intimacy is most poignantly illustrated. The covering of their sexual organs represents a deeper truth about the struggle for truthful intimacy that plagues humanity. This struggle, rooted in shame, insecurity, and self-centeredness, is a universal human experience that resonates across all cultures and all generations.
To Be Known?
Does this mean that we should all strive to return to a state of openness to the point that none of us get dressed in the morning? No, this particular illustration has to do with a husband and a wife. If other people were in the garden I am sure that there would be a covering as the Bible limits human sexuality to married couples. But it does call you to evaluate this act in your own marriage (for those of you who are married) and make this a priority in your marriage. Heck, there is a whole book in the Bible that has the celebration of sexual intimacy, of returning to God’s original intent, as it’s only subject (Song of Solomon). Paul also speaks to this issue:
“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (emphasis mine)
Sexual purity is not just to be thought of as a limiting of the sexual act to wed couples (though that is part of it), it speaks to the represenative importance of striving to restore God’s original intent and make this ultimate expression of intimacy a priority.
But, just as important are the trickle effects of this break down in intimacy on all relationships. We are scared to be ourselves. We are selfish. We don’t give of ourselves to others. We lack authenticity with God and man. We fear being found out.
It is not easy to be ourselves. It is not easy to undress our emotions. But this is a discipline and practice that we must all strive for if we are to return to God’s original intent.
I don’t like that last sentence. Whilethat sentence it true, it implied something akin to pulling teeth. It is not. When we engage in authenticity with each other, there is no greater pleasure. In truth, deep down, C.S. Lewis is correct when he says their is nothing in the human condition that is more deeply embedded than the desire to know and be known.