“Adam and Eve hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden, at the breezy time of the day. The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?” He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." – Gn 3:8-10
To me, the story of the Fall in the Garden of Eden is more about God’s tender mercy than about our sin. After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, shame and fear overcame them. They judged themselves as ugly and unworthy of God’s friendship. They hid from their daily walk in the breezy late afternoon with God, from the enjoyment between dear friends. Yet, God still seeks to walk with them. God is not focused on blaming. Instead, God makes a promise to save, stating that Eve’s future offspring will strike at the head of evil. In a crowning gesture, God does something full of tender mercy. Before sending them out of the Garden, God clothes their nakedness with leather garments (Gen 3:21). It is as if God says, “I don’t see your nakedness as ugly. But if you think so, I will cover your nakedness so you won’t reject yourself all the time.”
Like Adam and Eve, I hide from God because I feel “naked and afraid” whenever I sin, make mistakes, or fail to be true. I can be perfectionistic, hard on myself, judge my nakedness as unworthiness, and remove myself from God. Yet, God – often in the form of very loving people – does not shrink away from my self-rejection. Like wise parents, God allows me to suffer some consequences of my foolishness and wrongdoing while tenderly offering mercy and reconciliation.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is less about sin and more about God’s tenderness. It celebrates Mary’s “yes” that fulfills God’s offer to save. Like her, we are invited to humbly accept God’s tender mercy, to embrace that we are “full of grace”, that God is with us, even in our self-rejection.
Would you consider taking a walk with God or Mary as with a dear friend? Let yourself be seen through their eyes, especially if you feel ashamed, naked, or wanting to hide.