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.
–Genesis 3:8 (NIV)
The first time humankind sinned their response to their guilt was to run and hide and it seems like we have been doing the same thing ever since. What is it about guilt that makes us want to pull away, to avoid, to bury our head in the sand and hope it goes away? Whatever it is we are still following the patterns of Adam and Eve. When we are guilty we run and hide.
We try to hide from others:
This speaks so directly to me. When I know I have messed up everything in me just wants to avoid the situation all together. There have been many days that I have gone to church simply because I was paid to go. If it wasn’t for that I would have avoided the whole thing out of guilt.
In college I will never forget my BCM director (and spiritual mentor) calling me at home and telling me to that he needed to see me. I avoided him for over a week. I skipped out on meetings and changed appointments. In the end I made things worse by not going to see him. But the guilt that I held onto drove me into hiding.
We try to hide from God:
This one cracks me up, but I know in my own life that this is true. Have you ever messed up real bad–I’m not talking about an accidental sin or a momentary weakness, but a walking with your eyes open deliberately choosing to sin type of messing up–and afterwards you just didn’t want to pray. I know that that this is true in my own life. There have been times that I have even gone to church and gone through all of the motions there while at the same time avoiding prayer all together because of my guilt.
And here is the funny thing. I know that God has forgiven my sins–past, present, and future. I know that God’s grace is bigger than anything that I could ever do. But still I run and hide. The things that I know in my head don’t overcome the echo of Adam in my heart.
It all comes down to pride:
I think the big reason for this is pride (which is the downfall of my life). To face up to someone when we have made a mistake means to admit that we are not perfect, and even if we say we are not perfect it hurts to have it proven. To apologize to someone is to put yourself at their mercy and admit that you are not superman (or superwoman) and that you need help from time to time.
Facing Guilt is always better than running:
I have messed up in my life more times than I can count. You can’t have a loud mouth and a people-annoy-me-when-I-am-tired attitude like me and not end up making some serious public mistakes. And that doesn’t even include the ones that no one sees. What I have found is if I will swallow my pride and just stop running things are never as bad as they seem.
Guilt is a thief. It steals your joy; it steals your focus; it steals your life. Guilt is a weight on your chest that makes it hard to breath. When guilt forces us to run it doesn’t go away. It just gets heavier and heavier (sort of like the sled at a tractor pull).
But when we turn and face up to our guilt. We we go to God in prayer and say we are sorry, when we go back to the world we are running to avoid, guilt loses its hold on us and we are able to breathe again.
And yet I still run:
I know all of this to be true. I know that just facing up to what I have done is always better, but for some reason I always seem to run at least a few steps before I turn back. I guess the echoes of Adam in my heart are stronger than I realize. But I do cling to this truth. God’s grace is sufficient. Think on that next time you are running, next time you have your head buried in the sand and the weight of guilt on your chest. God’s grace is enough. It is more than enough and it will always welcome you home with open arms.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
–Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV (emphasis added)