Year B Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 2:23-25 (CEV) [So I will name her Woman!" [i] 24That's why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman, and the two of them become like one person. 25Although the man and his wife were both naked, they were not ashamed.]
In Hebrew, the word translated ashamed has an implied meaning that is also one of the lesser-known meanings of the English word shame. Because the meaning of ashamed or shame is important, I am going to share it with you. The meaning of the Hebrew world translated shame includes “disappointed.” The English meaning of shame also includes being “disappointed.”1
Before sin, Adam and Eve were naked and were not disappointed. They saw themselves very clearly. No clothes, no artificial barriers kept them from seeing exactly who they were. They did not fear seeing the real person or being seen. When they saw themselves, they did not hate or dislike what they saw. Because there was no sin, they really had nothing to make them disappointed or ashamed. Personal and emotional introspection and navel gazing was not painful or disappointing. There was no reason for personal discomfort, embarrassment, or disappointment when reflecting on who you were before sin entered the picture.
Until sin arrived, there are several reasons why Adam and Eve had no reason for disappointment. Obviously, they had not made any mistakes! Adam and Eve had no deeply disappointing regrets. They were satisfied with themselves and with their lives. Adam and Eve were not disappointed with their lot in life. They were not discouraged by their relationship with each other. They also were not disappointed by their physical appearance.
Sin entered the earth and the picture changed. Adam and Eve were now ashamed and disappointed. Since sin entered the world, many people have been disappointed when they think about themselves. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is not bad. Those people who are disappointed with their behavior may be more likely to turn to God than people who feel completely happy with how they act.
Unfortunately, there is an element of shame-filled self-inspection that is not good. Highly critical and persistent self-evaluation is not godly and is not inspired by the Lord. When the result of our self-inspection is to feel profoundly disappointed with who we are, the feeling is definitely not from God.
Extreme disappointment is common in the queer community. Many gay men, bisexuals and lesbians are more than a little disappointed and discouraged they are not straight. In fact, they may even hate themselves for not being straight. Trans-identified people also struggle with intense disappointment, because they are not straight like most people.
Some queer people become almost obsessed with wearing the “right clothes.” I think that could be a gay male thing. Others in the queer community are obsessed with having being top-dog at work, having the perfect home, having the nicest furniture, living in the best neighborhood, attending just the right church, having a picture-perfect life partner, and having highly gifted and talented kids.
The obsession with being perfect is not healthy, and is not godly or God-given. The result of the relentless pursuit of perfection is disappointment. Many people think about their failings, about the many ways in which they are not perfect. The impossible race for perfection may cause people to hate and loath themselves. God does not want people hating themselves, but that is a reality for some people. A few people look at their bodies and feel profoundly disappointed.
Probably most of us want to add a tad to a curve here or there or delete a bit from a curve here or there. There is a tendency for us think the movie stars, the men and women on the billboards and in the clothing magazines have just the “right” physical build. Some of the people in the billboard pictures do not have healthy physical builds. They are just a tad too skinny for good health. Their physical builds are not normal or healthy looking. And that perfect skin – well forget it. Nobody looks that good. Their minor imperfections have been touched up, to make their bodies look like they belong to a young god or goddess. Those seeking to look just like these young gods and goddesses may go too far with their diets and become very sick.
We have men getting pectoral and posterior cheek implants. People color their gray hair. Some people undergo unhealthy cosmetic surgery to remove all wrinkles and skin blemishes, regardless of how insignificant. All of this is done to keep from feeling disappointed when we look in the mirror. I think there is an easier and a cheaper way. And that is to look at ourselves, using the lens of Christ's righteousness. Then there is no need for cosmetic surgery, fad diets, or designer clothes. We feel satisfied with who we are, loved and accepted, because we see ourselves the way God sees us.
God is calling us to live a shameless life, a life without bitter disappointments because of who we are. The Lord encourages us look beyond the surface appearance, to look beyond wealth, positions, sexual orientation, gender identification, and physical beauty, and see a person who is loved and cherished by the hosts of heaven. God is extending to us the kind of deep inward satisfaction with who we are that Adam and Eve felt before sin entered the world. Those who understand they are made perfect because of Jesus Christ can more easily follow Jesus recommendation in Matthew 6:25 (KJV) do not worry about your life--what you shall eat, or what you shall drink--nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
1The American Heritage Dictionary. (New York, New York: Dell Pub., 1983), 628, and “Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries.” e-Sword. (Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000), Bible Software.